Benjamin Staern (1978-)


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Benjamin Staern (b. 1978) has established himself as one of the leading Scandinavian composers of the younger generation and the music is performed in Scandinavia, Europe, USA, Canada, Russia and Japan. Early musical experiences with studies in cello, piano and percussion in his youth. Studied musicology at Lund University and subsequently composition at the Malmö Academy of Music during 1998-2005 with professors Rolf Martinsson, Hans Gefors, Kent Olofsson and Luca Francesconi.

Staern has a deeply personal style with an output including orchestral, chamber works, solo pieces, electroacoustic music and opera stages. An interesting aspect of his work as a composer is his unusual ability to associate tones and timbres with different colours and tints. This is a variant of a phenomenon called synaesthesia which is fundamental in his perception and the creation that reflects his sound world as well as in many of his work titles (Yellow Skies, Colour Wandering etc.)

He was composer-in-residence with New European Ensemble 2010-14 on invitation from artistic leader and conductor Christian Karlsen that resulted into works like Tranströmersånger (selected poems from the Sad Gondola – collection by Nobel-prize author and poet Tomas Tranströmer), Bells and Waves (Chamber Symphony) winner of the SMFF Award 2011 in the category "most important work in chamber music/smaller ensemble" and a multimedia work SAIYAH in collaboration with Yoko Seyama for large ensemble, electronics and scenografic light sculpture at Norrlandsoperan for the MADE-festival in Umeå during Cultural Capital of the Year 2014. Worried Souls (Clarinet Concerto) was awarded the Large Christ Johnson Prize (Stora Christ Johnson-priset) from the Royal Swedish Music Academy (Kungliga Musikaliska Akademien).

Following the success as "composer in profile" of Båstad Chamber Music Festival 2016, the first opera The Snow Queen, based on a fairytale by H.C Andersen, was staged at the Malmö Opera in December 2016 with sold-out performances and rave reviews. Staerns second opera HILMA: an opera about hidden art (libretto: Mira Bartov) that was performed at Modern Museum in Stockholm and at the Guggenheim Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Looking ahead is a composer weekend at Konserthuset, Stockholm with 13 major works within the scope of 20 years as composer including two world premieres.

Summary list of works

The Threat of War (1999–2000, rev. 01) for symphony orchestra

Muramaris (2000) for fifteen solo string instruments

Colour wandering (2002) for ten brass musicians

Yellow skies (2003) for alto flute and electronics

Endast luft och brus (2004–05) for tuba and electronics

Sacrificio (2004–05) for tuba, live electronics and symphony orchestra

Confrontation (2006) for trumpet solo and brass quintet

Jubilate (2008) for symphony orchestra

Tranströmersånger (Tranströmer Settings) (2009/10) for alto and ensemble

Bells and Waves (2010) chamber symphony for large ensemble

Worried Souls (2011) concerto for clarinet and symphony orchestra

Godai (2012-13) concerto for orchestra

Sånger av bländvit kärlek (2013) (Songs of Dazzling Love) (poems from misc. collections by Karin Boye) (2013) for alto and orchestra.

Opposing Dance (2013) for flute and guitar.

Saiyah; Concert of Colours (2012-14) for trombone, guitar, large ensemble, stage art and electronics.

Polar Vortex (2014) for symphony orchestra

Snödrottningen, family opera in one act and 15 scenes. (2013-16/18).

Surprise! Trumpet Concertino for trumpet solo and small orchestra (2015)

Air–Spiral–Light concerto for guitar solo and ensemble (2014-16)

Dropwaves: sonata for piano solo (2016-17)

Salomos sång (Solomon's Song) for soprano solo, clarinet, violin, cello and piano (2017)

Historien om en prinsessa (A Princess Tale). Text: Mi Tyler. for 2 actors, clarinet, bassoon, cornet, trombone, percussion, violin and double-bass (2017)

Meditation in colours (2018) for organ solo and strings

HILMA: an opera about hidden art (2018) chamber opera for two singers, violin, cello, piano and electronics

Konnakol Variations (2019) for percussion solo and winds

Scherzo assurdo (2019) for clarinet and pia