A selection of press cuttings and reviews of my work:
Music Opinion, January 2021
From the Sublime to the Ridiculous by Benjamin Oliver wryly exploits time-honoured pianistic gestures and flourishes. It’s closing chord is unexpectedly poignant.
MusicWeb International, October 2020
One work that I took to immediately was Benjamin Oliver’s ‘From the Sublime to the Ridiculous’. I liked the sound of the title. The musical material for this piece is quite limited; there is a perfect cadence, a jittery melody, a rising arpeggio, a touch of romance and not a lot else. Oliver had explained that ‘these basic ingredients are repeated, reordered and transformed as the piece develops.’ The resulting piece is tongue in cheek, and none the worse for that. Great stuff!
The Observer, June 2019
Increasingly, early music soloists and ensembles are embracing the challenge of commissioning new music for old instruments. There are three examples on Elizabeth Kenny’s Ars longa: Old and new music for theorbo (Linn) – by James MacMillan, from a 2011 work, and two new ones by Benjamin Oliver and Nico Muhly – all stylish uses of the pungently plucked sounds of this large-size lute.
Cleveland Classical, June 2019
“…Benjamin Oliver’s spirited Extending from the Inside is built on a bass line that supports intricate rhythmic lines, and some wild strumming that verges on shredding. Kenny was having great fun as she dug into the music with gusto.”
Sunday Times, July 2019
“Here playing a theorbo – a lute elongated by the addition of bass strings – Kenny partners elegantly turned early baroque pieces by Piccinini, Kapsberger and de Visée with new work. James MacMillan’s devout Motet 1 (from Since it was the day of Preparation), Benjamin Oliver’s rather grittier Extending from the inside and Nico Muhly’s colourful Berceuse, with seven variations, make for excellent contrast and complement. Kenny’s playing is, as usual, sublime.”
BBC Music Magazine, September 2019
“Three pieces from Giovanni Girolamo Kapsperger’s Fourth Book of 1640, including a virtuoso Toccata, precede Benjamin Oliver’s Extending from the inside, and expanding set of variations which at one point breaks into percussive jazzy chords.”
Musicweb International, September 2019:
“Benjamin Oliver’s piece pays less regard to the theorbo’s ‘history’. Kenny’s observation, in her booklet notes, that Oliver hears the instrument as “at times, a large version of a funk guitar” (she adds “but one that speaks to the Baroque tradition of repeated or ground bass figures”) is perhaps a slight simplification, but it is certainly true that Oliver uses the theorbo to create a sound-world very different from the one it occupied in the seventeenth century, while MacMillan seems more concerned with the meeting of old and new. Oliver has constructed an interesting piece which, the composer tells us, is one of “a series of works developed in response to the first part of Arvo Pärt’s ‘Ludus’ in Tabula rasa”.”
Glyn Pursglove, September 2019
Scottish Herald, October 2014:
“And a solo theorbo recital is rare thing, but the Tapestry Room of Dumfries House with a log fire spitting behind the audience was the perfect context for Elizabeth Kenny to play a little motet by MacMillan and a wonderful new piece by Benjamin Oliver, Extending from the Inside, which sounded a little like King Crimson’s Robert Fripp guesting with the Young Marble Giants.”
Keith Bruce, 6 November 2014
Tempo, April 2014:
“Rounding off the concert’s first half, Benjamin Oliver’s Lullaby for Joni was another, quite different, bipartite structure in which the initial material presents a variety of different ideas which are then repeated and transformed, in the composer’s words, ‘as if suddenly heard in a “womb” acoustic environment’, a metamorphosis effected by woodwind and brass blowing into their instruments and the first violins playing col legno. This final section built up to a massive climax, after which the closing bars were quiet and expectant, an appropriate denouement for a piece written to celebrate the arrival of the composer’s daughter. Refreshingly unsentimental, Oliver’s score was clear, concise and compact, displaying an economy of gesture and an ability to realise fully the potential of its material that bodes well for this creative artist’s future progress.”
Paul Conway, Tempo / Volume 68 / Issue 268 / April 2014, p. 81.
The Londonist from November 2013:
“[Lullaby for Joni] was an intense lullaby and had very loud elements which I was not sure one would play to a sleeping child. It was enjoyable and fun to watch some of the violinist faces as they created white noise by scraping the bow, something that looked quite alien even to them. It was a sound I was not sure I would like initially but it was strangely soothing overall.”
“…As [Lullaby for Joni] grew with layers of texture being added one by one over a steady crescendo I actually began to feel extremely uncomfortable, feeling as though I was trapped in a womb. I was pleased when the piece had finished but also fairly awestruck at the sheer power of the music and the effect it had had on me.”
Comments from audience reviewers as reported in the Londonist
The Londonist from September 2013:
“I enjoyed the music with the exception of [Ben Oliver’s] Three Materials that to my ear sounded like someone randomly hitting piano keys while not paying attention, a bit like doodling while you’re talking on the phone.”
Comment from an audience member as reported in the Londonist
Sounds New Blog from May 2012:
“The programme also included Benjamin Oliver’s Ripped Up, for the complete six-piece ensemble. Delicate opening piano chords lead into a driving groove pitching four-against-three rhythms; an elegiac episode interrupts with a cluster-chord, and showed some careful textural writing in the creation of some effective woodwind and percussion sonorities. A ticking shaker sees time fragmenting in its erratic utterances, whilst the piano picks out some gossamer-thread shapes above hushed, low saxophone trills; but the rhythmic impetus is not to be denied, and returns with driving momentum. The faltering ticker interrupts once more, accompanied by haunting mobiles from the xylophone that fall across the barline, before a hesitant conclusion sees the piece finishing with wide-eyed expectancy.
A fascinating programme, delivered with real accomplishment by youthful former members of the Guildhall School. Expect to hear more from them, and from Benjamin Oliver in the future.”
Daniel Harding on the Sounds New Blog, 14 May 2012
Daily Telegraph from May 2011:
“All the pieces were suggestive and quick on their feet, as were the two new British pieces by Hugo Ribiera and Benjamin Oliver (which seemed distinctly English in this company, perhaps because Birtwistle’s savage musical machines were their common ancestor).”
Ivan Hewett in The Telegraph, 25 May 2011
Hertfordshire Advertiser from November 2010: