George Benjamin Three Inventions etc
Having originally issued George Benjamin’s Sudden Time as a CD single (11/94), Nimbus now bring it back in the context of a range of other works which underline the distinctive textural refinement and expressive conviction of this music. For anyone disappointed that Benjamin is not more prolific, there is the ample compensation of music as deeply felt and expertly crafted as any being written today by a composer under 40.
Sudden Time (1990-3) stands up well, and three years of increasing familiarity have considerably enhanced my initial enthusiasm for the work. But the two other recent compositions here are even more striking. Upon Silence (1993) is a setting for mezzo-soprano and five viols of a poem by Yeats in which textures of exceptional subtlety reflect a response to the text which is captivating in its blend of spontaneity and stylization. The alternative version, with the viols replaced by a septet of violas, cellos and double-basses is no less imaginative, while obviously lacking the unique quality – old instruments used in an entirely viable modern way – of the original.
Three Inventions (1994) has ear-opening instrumental effects on every page, but these never detract from the essential processes of argument and cogent form-building in music perhaps more urgently expressive (especially in the third piece) than anything else of Benjamin’s. With the astonishingly precocious Octet, written in 1979, when the composer was 18, and with highly effective recordings of definitive performances, this disc is an outstanding success.'