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George Benjamin - At First Light

At First Light
The three major works of Benjamin’s youth – Ringed by the Flat Horizon, At First Light and A Mind of Winter – all show his acute feeling for harmonic and instrumental colours, a sensual delight in sounds for their own sakes, and a wonderful ability to translate visual or poetic images into music of haunting vividness. In At First Light, the hazy radiance of Turner’s painting Northiam Castle: Sunrise is mirrored in an impressionist musical haze in which sounds emerge from musical textures just as objects emerge from the mist in Turner’s canvas. So detailed is Benjamin’s deployment of his forces (the score calls for “large newspaper” and “ping-pong ball with flat-bottomed glass”) that it’s hard to believe there are only fourteen players producing the delicate interplay between shimmering background and sometimes raucous foreground.

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At First Light; A Mind of Winter; Ringed by the Flat Horizon; Antara; Panorama: Walmsley-Clark; London Sinfonietta, BBC Symphony Orchestra; Benjamin, Elder (Nimbus NI 5643).

Benjamin conducts the London Sinfonietta in lucid performances of At First Light and Antara (also included in Panorama, a tiny preliminary electronic study for Antara), while Mark Elder directs a dramatic account of Ringed by the Flat Horizon. Penelope Walmsley-Clark is the fearless vocal soloist in A Mind of Winter, a setting of Wallace Stevens’ poem “The Snow Man”.
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