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George Benjamin, one of our most loved contemporary composers, was invited to be the curator of the inaugural Meltdown Festival in 1993.
He started playing piano at the age of seven, and quickly turned to composing. Aged only 14, he began to study at the Paris Conservatoire with Olivier Messiaen, who is reported to have considered Benjamin his favourite pupil.
While he was still a student, Benjamin became the youngest living composer to have one of his pieces, ‘Ringed by the Flat Horizon’, performed at The Proms in 1980, when he was only 20 years old. The piece is still performed today.
It was followed by A Mind of Winter and At First Light, and then Antara, a commission to celebrate the anniversary of the Pompidou centre in 1987 that included electronic manipulation of sound.
Benjamin remains if not a prolific composer, then one who is dedicated to tackling new techniques with every work on which he embarks. He has collaborated with artists including Pierre Boulez, playwright Martin Crimp and he has been elected to the Bavarian Academy of Fine Arts – only the fourth British composer upon whom this honour has been bestowed.
Benjamin’s Meltdown Festival featured the world premiere of Sudden Time, performances by the London Philharmonic Orchestra, singers Christine Botes and Richard Stuart, percussionists James Wood, Robert van Sice and Emmanuel Séjourné, the London Sinfonietta, Pierre-Laurent Aimard and Austrian artist Just Merit, who performed Radical Disruption.
He continues his relationship with Southbank Centre, marking his 50th birthday in 2010 with a concert of his works performed by the London Sinfonietta.