Benjamin 'Viola Viola' and other chamber music
This disc includes the World Premiere recordings of Shadowlines, written for its performer here, Pierre-Laurent Aimard, in 2001, and the Three Studies for Piano, written during the early 1980s and played here by the composer. Coupled with these are Viola, Viola, written in 1997 and now one of George's most frequently performed works, and the classic recording of the Piano Sonata, written in 1979 and recorded shortly after.
Here is a prize of a CD. It contains three works for piano and one for two violas by George Benjamin, who is 50 this year (2010). Benjamin is usually thought of as a symphonist; so it's refreshing to hear his music on a smaller scale. the four pieces play in the reverse order of their composition. Benjamin describes the influences behind Shadowlines (the most recent) as being his exposure to Webern, specifically his Symphony Op. 21. Shadowlines is indeed a spare piece; yet it's rich in sonorities and tonal palette. Dedicated to Pierre-Laurent Aimard, this is its première recording. For distillation and purpose, beauty and sensitivity, this is a rendering which could hardly be bettered.
The recording quality is high. There's almost a sense of a live concert, particularly in the case of the Sonata and Three Studies. The booklet is highly informative, concise and packed with relevant fore- and background on compositions, composer and players. A tribute to the Nimbus label in every respect!