News archive 2001
George Benjamin to succeed Harrison Birtwistle08 Aug 2001, PR 20/01
George Benjamin, the internationally renowned composer and conductor, has been appointed as the Henry Purcell Professor of Composition at King’s College London.
He succeeds Professor Sir Harrison Birtwistle CH who retires this summer.
George Benjamin, who was born in 1960, first came to public prominence when his work Ringed by the Flat Horizon was performed at the BBC Promenade Concerts in 1980. His other acclaimed works include A Mind of Winter, At First Light, Antara, Upon Silence, Three Inventions, Viola, Viola and Palimpsest. Most of his music has been recorded by Nimbus. Sudden Time will be performed as part of Prom 39 at the Albert Hall on Sunday 19 August by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra under Sakari Oramo.
Benjamin is also highly distinguished as a conductor, and he has led orchestras and ensembles throughout the world in his own and other music. In 1999 he made his opera debut conducting Pelléas et Mélisande to great acclaim at La Monnaie in Brussels, and he has close links with London Sinfonietta and Ensemble Modern. Future plans include concerts with the London Symphony Orchestra, the Deutsches-Symphonie Orchester, Berlin, and the Cleveland and Concertgebouw orchestras.
Benjamin’s work as a teacher and consultant includes sixteen years at the Royal College of Music, where he was the first Prince Consort Professor of Composition; acting as Artistic Consultant to BBC Radio 3’s retrospective of twentieth-century music, Sounding the Century; and his recent role as Director of the Contemporary Music Festival at Tanglewood. His outstanding contribution to French musical life has been recognised by the award of the title Chevalier dans l’ordre des arts et des lettres by the French Government. He is only the fourth British Composer to be elected to the Bavarian Academy of Fine Arts.
George Benjamin said: “For many years, I have been aware of the particular excellence and dynamism of the Music Department at King’s, and it is a great privilege for me to be invited to join them as Henry Purcell Professor of Composition.”
John Deathridge, King Edward Professor of Music and Head of the Department of Music at King's College London, said of the appointment, “We are delighted that George Benjamin will be joining the Music Department at King’s. He is committed to composition, performance and teaching at the highest level and we greatly look forward to working with him.”
Notes to editors
King's College London
King's is one of the two oldest and largest colleges of the University of London with some 12,200 undergraduate students and over 4,500 postgraduates in ten schools of study. The College is among the country's top four higher education institutions for the number of highest-rated subject-areas for research quality. It is in the top group of five universities for research earnings and has an annual turnover of £285 million and research income from grants and contracts in excess of £80 million (1999-2000).
The Department of Music
Since its foundation in 1964 by the noted scholar and performer, Thurston Dart, formerly Professor of Music at Cambridge and the first King Edward Professor at King's, the Department has led developments in postgraduate music education in the UK, including the first Masters course in Theory and Analysis. The Department's research interests are wide, ranging from library-based scholarship, performance and composition to electronic engineering. Developments during the last decade include the foundation of the Chair in Performance Studies (currently held by Laurence Dreyfus), the aforementioned Henry Purcell Chair of Musical Composition and increasingly close links with the Royal Academy of Music. The Department currently houses a nationally funded project on lute music and is a major partner in an internationally funded project on Music Information Retrieval with the College’s Departments of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering. Most recently, the department has established a new MA in Visual and Performing Arts: Promenade Concerts.
The Department is one of the largest for musical research in the country with almost 40 postgraduate students (MMus and PhD degrees in Composition, Historical Musicology and Musical Analysis are long-standing components of the teaching programme) and possesses its own research centre: the Institute for Advanced Musical Studies. It received the top ranking in both the 1992 and 1996 Research Assessment Exercises and was awarded 'Excellent' for its teaching by the Higher Education Funding Council. The undergraduate degree (BMus) emphasises both theory and performance with students having the unique opportunity to undertake individual lessons at the Royal Academy of Music. Degrees with German and Computer Science are also offered. There are currently about 120 undergraduates. For further details, see Department of Music.
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