On 18 Mar, the BBC Symphony Orchestra will assemble under the baton of composer Oliver Knussen (Tanglewood) to tackle a new, specially-commissioned piece: Dream of the Song. Counter-tenor Iestyn Davies, a Glyndebourne favourite, will lead the BBC Singers. Benjamin’s work will be matched by masterpieces from two of his influences – Debussy and Stravinsky. The former’s Nocturnes, inspired by the paintings of Whistler, is a stirring depiction of life and the natural world, what the composer called ‘cosmic dust.’ And the Russian’s Symphony in 3 Movements, written during the Second World War, is a turbulent piece of neo-classicism that still evokes the composer’s expressionist past.
The next day, at 1pm in LSO St. Lukes, Benjamin himself will introduce his own chamber music, including arrangements of Bach and Purcell. Radio 3’s Sara Mohr-Pietsch will be on hand to present, while pianist George King will take the lead alongside members of the Mahler Chamber Orchestra.
When it was premiered at Aix-en-Provence in 2012, Benjamin’s Written on Skin received rapturous reviews; Le Monde went so far as to call it ‘the greatest opera since Berg’s Wozzeck’. Based on a legend from the troubadour Guilaume de Cabestany that later appeared in Boccaccio’s Decameron, it is a brutal tale of artistic creation and unsanctioned passion, climaxing in a gore-speckled act of cannibalism and final suicide. It’s a plot worthy of the great Italian tragedies of Verdi and Puccini, delivered in masterly music that never sacrifices beauty for dazzle. For this concert performance on 19 Mar, the original leads take to the stage under Benjamin’s baton. Acclaimed bass baritone Christopher Purves (Handel Arias) reprises the role of Boy, while the estimable soprano Barbara Hannigan plays Agnes. With the distinctive tones of the Mahler Chamber Orchestra at the fore, this promises to be a devastatingly powerful evening.
|Benjamin at the Barbican, Barbican Centre
|Barbican Centre, Silk Street, London, EC2Y 8DS | MAP
On 18 Mar 16, 7:30 PM – 9:45 PM
On 19 Mar 16, 1:00 PM – 2:30 PM
On 19 Mar 16, 7:30 PM – 9:30 PM
|Click here to book via the Barbican website