Benjamin: Piano Figures

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Benjamin
LABELS: Nimbus
WORKS: Piano Figures
PERFORMER: George Benjamin (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: NI 1528

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This set of ten piano miniatures composed in 2004 lasts barely 13 minutes, but what a wealth of invention it contains. Benjamin tells us that the pieces were ‘conceived for the hands of young pianists,’ but it would take unusually agile young hands, and a sharp musical intelligence, to tackle them.

Each one instantly conjures a particular expressive landscape, often linked to a particular technical challenge such as hand-crossing or rapid pedal-work. There’s ‘Knots’, reminiscent of a close-knit Debussy Etude, ‘Interruption’, which has some fascinating third-pedal effects, and ‘Mosaic’ which surrounds a long-breathed melody with decorative flurries.

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Benjamin’s performance reminds us what a remarkable pianist he is. He summons a startlingly fierce tone in ‘Hammers’, and in ‘Mosaic’ there’s a astonishing repeated bell-sound, so strange you wonder whether Benjamin has cunningly prepared the piano in advance. Ivan Hewett