Review: Mrs Lazarus

“Benjamin ... clearly has the energy and vision required to inject fresh life into the art form”

Classical Music, December 2009 issue, by Andrew Stewart
Radius at Queen Elizabeth Hall, 21st October 2009 (“Premiere of the Year”)

Those familiar with the eternal mantra “classical music is dead”, will appreciate the need for a strongly contrasting counter-subject. Tim Benjamin, whose Oxford doctoral thesis and congruent book deal with the economics of new music, clearly has the energy and vision required to inject fresh life into the art form. He made his mark as winner of the 1993/94 BBC Young Musician of the Year Composer’s Award, before scooping a Stephen Oliver Trust prize soon after for his first opera. Benjamin’s chamber ensemble, Radius, came into being in 2007 and has done its bit since to promote new work with verve and ear-catching musicianship.

Radius was on top form for its Purcell Room outing last October, by turns exuberantly eloquent and eloquently exuberant in Webern’s arrangement of Schoenberg’s First Chamber Symphony. Their world premiere reading of Benjamin’s Mrs Lazarus spoke volumes for the combined imaginative powers of composer and performers, the former responding with carefully calculated restraint in his setting of Carol Ann Duffy’s eponymous poem. Soprano Danae Eleni, subtle in her shading of words and always alive to the poet’s song of mourning and memory, revealed the rich theatrical component of Benjamin’s score as an ensemble player, holding the stage persuasively as soloist without parting from her colleagues in the band. Mrs Lazarus certainly deserves to rise again.

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