Home | Reviews | Articles | Festivals | Competitions | Other | Contact Us

George Benjamin Into the Little Hill

Anu Komsi and Hilary Summers with Ensemble Modern/Franck Ollu

Nimbus NI 5828

Contemplated for a couple of decades, George Benjamin, who never rushes things, has eventually produced an "opera" of sorts, premièred in Paris, November 2006 and given in Amsterdam June 2007, before being recorded in Frankfurt last November.

Into the Little Hill, a "lyric tale", belies its modest dimensions (40 mins) and its casting (two singers sharing all the roles) to pack a powerful punch.

Staged simply, as shown on the Nimbus cover image, it is fine for CD, with the far from simple full text (Martin Crimp) to study. Requiring only 15 instrumentalists, it tells its scary and topical variant of the Pied Piper tale of a town besieiged by rats with memorable force - "more unsettling than charming" [Rupert Christiansen].

The fill-ups are a ten-minute setting of Caliban's speech Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments (The Tempest) - Dietrich Henschel - and some choreographic scenes for full orchestra (Dance Figures) which await stage presentation.

An important addition to Benjamin's slowly growing discography.

Peter Grahame Woolf

See also re Antara: [Nimbus, NI 5643]
- - Re-acquaintance with Benjamin's Ircam collaboration, Antara, was welcome for its conceptual originality and integration of sound heard outside the Pompidou Centre, especially his creation of idealized pan-pipes originally requiring the transportation of an enormous, unique research computer, nowadays mediated by electronic keyboards without fuss or undue expense. I attended one of the Nimbus recording sessions, and wrote at length about what has subsequently been termed George Benjamin's episode of 'flirtation' with electronics. He went back to normal instruments, pen and paper, and recently spoke about the strain of composing to an ideal which demands that every note can be accounted for and satisfy the composer before he is ready to deliver the score, usually close to the deadline.