Born in 1960, George Benjamin is one of the outstanding composers of his generation. He started to play the piano at the age of seven, and began composing almost immediately. In 1976 he entered the Paris Conservatoire to study with Olivier Messiaen (composition) and Yvonne Loriod (piano), after which he concluded his studies at King's College Cambridge under Alexander Goehr.
His first orchestral work, Ringed by the Flat Horizon, was played at the BBC Proms when he was just 20; from the first it achieved a remarkable international performance record, as did two subsequent works, A Mind of Winter and At First Light. Antara was a commission from IRCAM to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Pompidou centre in 1987 and Three Inventions for Chamber Orchestra was written for the opening of the 75th Salzburg Festival in 1995.
The London Symphony Orchestra and Pierre Boulez gave the world premiere of Palimpsests in 2002 to mark the opening of ‘By George’, the LSO's season-long portrait of his work at the Barbican. Recent years have seen numerous retrospectives of his work, including Madrid, Berlin, Paris, Lucerne, London and Frankfurt.
The centre point of a portrait at the 2006 Festival d'Automne in Paris was his first operatic work, Into the Little Hill, a collaboration with the playwright Martin Crimp, which has toured widely across the world since its premiere. The two have collaborated on a second and larger operatic project, Written on Skin, which was premiered with great acclaim at the Festival Aix-en-Provence in July 2012. A co-commission with the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, Netherlands Opera, Maggio Musicale (Florence) and the Theatre du Capitole Toulouse, it is also scheduled for further performances in Munich, Vienna and Paris in 2013 and beyond in 2014-15.
As a conductor he regularly appears with some of the world's leading ensembles and orchestras, amongst them the London Sinfonietta, Ensemble Modern, Ensemble Intercontemporain, Mahler Chamber Orchestra, Philharmonia, Cleveland and Concertgebouw orchestras and the Berlin Philharmonic. He has conducted numerous world premieres, including important works by Rihm, Chin, Grisey and Ligeti and his repertoire stretches from Schumann and Wagner to Knussen, Abrahamsen and Grisey.
In January 2010 there were extensive celebrations marking Benjamin’s 50th birthday given by the San Francisco Symphony and London Sinfonietta, and in May 2012 the Southbank Centre, London presented a retrospective of his work as part of the UK’s Cultural Olympiad.
He has built up a close relationship with the Tanglewood festival in America since his first appearance in 1999. He returned there in August 2012 and is invited in 2013. He is a Chevalier dans l’ordre des Arts et Lettres and is a member of the Bavarian Academy of Fine Arts. An honorary fellow of the Guildhall School, the Royal Academy and the Royal College of Music, he won the Deutsche Symphonie Orchester's first ever Schoenberg Prize for composition. In June 2010 he was awarded a C.B.E. in the Queen’s birthday honours, and he was made an Honorary Member of the Royal Philharmonic Society in 2011.
He lives in London, and since 2001 has been the Henry Purcell Professor of Composition at King‘s College, London. His works are published by Faber Music and are recorded on Nimbus Records.
Benjamin, who was made a CBE in the 2010 Birthday Honours, has been awarded a knighthood in the 2017 Queen's Birthday Honours and is currently at work on Lessons in Love and Violence, his latest operatic collaboration with Martin Crimp, which will premiere at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden on 10 May 2018.