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NI 5885
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NI 5885

George Benjamin - Written on Skin

The Classical Shop
release date: February 2013

Originally recorded in 2012


Mahler Chamber Orchestra

George Benjamin

Pierre-Laurent Aimard

Barbara Hannigan

- <i>Agnès his wife</i>

Bejun Mehta

- <i>Angel 1 / The Boy</i>

Rebecca Jo Loeb

- <i>Angel 2 / Marie</i>

Allan Clayton

- <i>Angel 3 / John</i>

Christopher Purves

- <i>The Protector</i>


Grand Théâtre de Provence, Festival d'Aix-en-Provence

7 & 14 July 2012


Paul Malinowski


Cyril Becue

Record Label



Total Time - 102:34
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Written on Skin

  Part One  
1 Scene I - Chorus of Angels 3:29
2 Scene II - The Protector, Agnès and the Boy 7:46
3 Scene III - Chorus of Angels 2:01
4 Scene IV - Agnès and the Boy 8:21
5 Scene V - The Protector and the visitors - John and Marie 5:46
6 Scene VI - Agnès and the Boy 8:26
  Part Two  
7 Scene VII - The Protector's bad dream 1:17
8 Scene VIII - The Protector and Agnès 8:25
9 Scene IX - The Protector and the Boy 8:56
10 Scene X - Agnès and the Boy 5:26
  Part Three  
11 Scene XI - The Protector, Agnès and the Boy 4:06
12 Scene XII - The Proector and Agnès 6:07
13 Scene XIII - Chorus of Angels and The Protector 6:47
14 Scene XIV - The Protector and Agnès 8:20
15 Scene XV - The Boy / Angel 1 5:16
16 Duet for Piano and Orchestra 12:05
 Pierre-Laurent Aimard

Written on Skin is the second collaboration between George Benjamin and Martin Crimp. Their previous One Act Opera Into The Little Hill has been received with universal acclaim. Written on Skin was jointly commissioned by The Festival d Aix-en-Provence and the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden and this recording was taken from the premiere in July 2012 at Aix-en-Provence conducted by the composer. George Benjamin’s status as one of the UK’s leading composers has created unprecedented demand for the new opera.

                            Winner  Jury Award 2014

BBC Music magazine Awards 2014

                             Critic’s Choice 2013

"George Benjamin’s Written On Skin, with a text by martin Crimp, reaffirmed that - as long as the text has freshness and power and makes space for music to bring something new - opera can still be an art of and for our time ..."

Stephen Plaistow - Gramophone magazine - December 2013

"... The instrumental and vocal performances are excellent, but Barbara Hannigan is outstanding as Agnes. The result is an opera that is compelling all the way through, potent and vital ... this recording is one of the few necessary purchases this year for collectors of opera ..."

George Adams - American Record Guide - November/December 2013

"... Benjamin expertly conducts the superb mahler Chamber Orchestra, which is a full participant in the tumultuous proceedings. This is a live recording of the impressively polished premiere performance at the 2012 Festival d’Aix-en-Provence, staged by Katie Mitchell... Benjamin’s intriguing, vividly coloured Duet for Piano and Orchestra, featuring the always-impressive pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard, fills out the second disc."

Joshua Rosenblum - Opera News magazine - October 2013

"... Handpicked soloists couldn’t be bettered, allowing every word and emotional nuance to shine though. Christopher Purves brings out the cruel ambiguities of The Protector in a performance of gripping intensity. Barbara Hannigan and countertenor Bejun Mehta are riveting throughout, their voices intertwining in their psycho-erotic game-playing, If, as some have said, Written On Skin represents the future of the artform, I for one will be happy to go along for the ride."    Overall Rating: 5 out of 5
Clive Paget - Limelight (Australia) - 8 August 2013

                    Opera Choice 

Performance *****       Recording ****

"...Benjamin’s sonorities and harmonies are as imaginative as ever ... on every level it’s masterly."

Ivan Hewett - BBC Music magazine - June 2013

"... This is music of formidable self-assurance, performed and recorded with matching conviction."

Arnold Whittall - Gramophone magazine - May 2013

 "The occasion when we sang through George Benjamin’s new masterpiece, Written on Skin, with the incomparable Mahler Chamber Orchestra was one such. The sound world that this one, albeit brilliant, man had created was truly awe-inspiring, so utterly unique, that even the hardest of us all were reduced to tears. To witness at first hand the incredible genius of the orchestral players as they swooped and scaled the demanding writing as though it really was a walk in the park was humbling." 

Christopher Purves - Musician’s Diary - Gramophone magazine - January 2013

"Written on Skin, a bolder statement than anything he has tried before." 
David Gutman - International Record Review - April 2013

 "Working with Martin Crimp seems to have stimulated Benjamin to new levels of creativity. Although Written on Skin is stylized and abstract, it is inherently dramatic on its own terms. Dare I say it, but I do feel that this will be one of the defining operas of the early 21st century, because it is so visionary." 

Anne Ozorio - Opera Today - March 2013

"’Benjamin’s latest opera features cannibalism, suicide, sex and murder, and could be a watershed moment – unleashing the expressivity of one of Britain’s most essential. The visceral human passion and drama of his largest work to date, the opera Written on Skin, with a text by Martin Crimp, receives its British premiere at Covent Garden in March. To coincide with the London premiere, Nimbus is releasing a CD of the world premiere at Aix-en-Provence last summer; having heard it, what’s so striking about the opera is how Benjamin finds both a rigorous economy and expressive violence in his music, which does justice to the opera’s stylised storytelling and its unflinching emotional struggles. There are also some astonishing orchestral colours – a glass harmonica, viola da gamba – that make Written on Skin an essential experience, even recorded. Written on Skin might not just be a watershed for Benjamin’s music (and the realisation of his lifelong dream of writing for the Royal Opera House), but for British opera as a whole."
Tom Service - The Guardian - 25 February 2013

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