Benjamin 'Palimpsests' and other Orchestral Works

'At First Light' had its premiere in a London Sinfonietta concert in St. John's, Smith Square. 'At First Light' is written for a chamber orchestra of fourteen and was inspired by a late painting by Turner, his 'Northam Castle, Sunrise' in the Tate Gallery. The music is "a contemplation of dawn, a celebration of the colours and noises of daybreak".


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Such is the acuity of the composer’s ear, however, that the listener is amazed at the variety of colour achieved. The work begins in near-inaudibility, and the tiny first movement is composed of fragments, scraps of ideas, long held notes and twitters, that never really blend into anything tangible. The other movements are longer, the second more dramatic, the third calm, with fragments of melody and ravishing instrumental sonorities. But this is music with few audible signposts. Sudden Time confirms that impression. This is a work for large orchestra, but there is very little in the way of melodic writing, little to latch on to, being composed instead of fragments once again, moments of harmony and ever-changing sonorities. Try this disc for yourself, with open ears and an open mind.

William Hedley,
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