It was not until the 2006 Fall Festival, and the creation at the Opéra Bastille of his first scenic work, Into the Little Hill, that the French truly discovered the music of transparency and poetic atmospheres by George Benjamin . However, the British composer already had a long-standing relationship with our country. Having studied in Paris from the age of sixteen. This Messiaen pupil, who remembers a "devoted, generous and encouraging master", also confesses to having kept from these years of youth in the capital "very precious memories".
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We can therefore only rejoice at the tribute decided to pay him, for its sixtieth anniversary, the Présences festival. Orchestrated by Radio France, exclusively dedicated to contemporary music, the event, whose present edition opened last week, offers a retrospective of his work, interspersed with pieces by the composers who mattered to him, or his own students .
Demonstration this week with four concerts in major mode. First of all that of the National Orchestra of France (on February 12 at Radio France), placed under the direction of the specialist in contemporary music Pascal Rophé. On the program, his score for large orchestra, Sudden Time, but also two new creations by Julian Anderson (student like him from Alexander Goehr in Cambridge) and Dai Fujikura (student of Benjamin at King's College). As well as Figures-Doubles-Prismes by Pierre Boulez, for whom the musician says he has a deep admiration. Three days later, on the 15th, the Philharmonic will follow suit, this time under the direction of Kent Nagano. The cantor of Olivier Messiaen (he created his Saint-François d'Assise in 1983) will direct in addition to the Philhar all the vocal forces of the Round House in a brilliant program, where the Three small liturgies of the divine presence will answer , Sometimes Voices by Benjamin and creations by Ondrej Adamek, Helen Grime or Jérôme Combier.
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At the same time, the Philharmonie rolls out the red carpet for the creator, offering two sides of his work. On the one hand, the keyboard work, which will be defended on February 13 by the irreplaceable Pierre-Laurent Aimard, as fine ambassador of creation as of English culture (he directed for eight years the prestigious Aldeburgh festival created by Benjamin Britten ). He will dialogue the six canons of Shadowlines, which Benjamin dedicated to him in 2001, with Berg, Beethoven or Sweelinck. The next day, the Pierre Boulez room will host a staged version of Written on Skin , a successful opera that the composer himself will direct. Barbara Hannigan, creator of the main role of Agnes, having had to cancel her arrival, she will be replaced by the American Georgia Jarman, chosen by Benjamin in person.
»Festival Présences, Maison de la Radio, 116, avenue du Président-Kennedy (Paris 16th). Philharmonie de Paris, 224, avenue Jean-Jaurès (Paris 19th). Tel: 01 56 40 15 16 - 01 44 84 44 84. February 12 and 15 at 8 p.m., February 13 and 14 at 8:30 p.m. Places: from 10 to 67 euros.