2013 Emily Anderson Prize Winner
£2,500 towards professional development
Born in New Zealand in 1990, Benjamin Baker first picked up a violin at three years old. Four years later he had made seven television appearances and played with the celebrated Nigel Kennedy who recommended he apply to join The Yehudi Menuhin School in London. Benjamin was granted a scholarship in 1998 and travelled from New Zealand to begin his training in England later that year. Benjamin was privileged to be the last student at the school to know the late Lord Menuhin who glowingly wrote him a personal note: ‘Knowing you will do wonderfully well’.
Since leaving New Zealand, aged 8, Benjamin has played in the Royal Albert Hall, Royal Festival Hall, Wigmore Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall, Purcell Room, Bath Pump Room at the International Bath Festival and has given recitals in Turkey, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Switzerland, France, Denmark, Sweden and New Zealand.
Benjamin made his concerto debut in 2002 at 12 years old playing Mozart Violin Concerto No 4 in Istanbul with the Romanian State Orchestra to an audience of nearly 1,000. He has since been invited to play many major Concertos with professional orchestras worldwide.
The following year he returned to New Zealand to perform the Bruch Violin Concerto with the Wellington Sinfonia, conducted by Kenneth Young at the Michael Fowler Centre. John Button reviewing for ‘The Dominion Post’ wrote, “His playing displays a level of polish and accomplishment that fully justified the hype that surrounds him.”
Invited back to New Zealand two years later, Benjamin played two performances of the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto which were broadcast live on Radio New Zealand with the NGC Wellington Sinfonia. He returned to New Zealand for concert tours in 2008 and 2010.
The Cathcart Concerto Award in 2007 gave Benjamin his first opportunity to play with the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra at the prestigious Royal Albert Hall in London. The critic Michael Darvell said of his performance, ‘At just 17, Benjamin is obviously destined for great things’.
At the 2009 Gstaad Festival in Switzerland, Benjamin impressed the Daily Telegraph critic, Michael White, who wrote, ‘A fine account of Vaughan Williams’ Concerto Academico with Benjamin Baker, a sleek-sounding young soloist; Hugely impressive’.
Benjamin has received acclaim both as a soloist and also as a member of the string ensemble, Trio Boyarsky. In the last two years Benjamin has toured Sweden, Denmark, France, Singapore and New Zealand with Trio Boyarsky.
Benjamin is currently studying on a full ABRSM scholarship at the Royal College of Music with Professor Natasha Boyarsky. Competition successes include 2nd Prize at the Postacchini International Violin Competition in May 2011, 1st prize in the string section of the Royal Overseas League Competition in February 2012 and in March 2013 Benjamin was awarded 1st Prize and Audience Prize from the Windsor Festival International String Competition. Most recently in May 2013 Benjamin was selected as a new YCAT artist in the final round of auditions in Wigmore Hall.
Benjamin released his first solo CD, ‘Arcadian Strings’ in 2005, which won the Classic FM ‘Next Big Thing’ Competition. In 2010 he released his second CD, ‘Benjamin Baker Live at The Menuhin Hall’. Benjamin was honoured to be awarded Life Membership of the Rotary Club of Port Nicholson for his commitment to children’s charities since first busking on the streets of Wellington aged 5.
(Last updated September 2013)
George Benjamin, composer, conductor, teacher, programmer: awarded RPS Honorary Membership in 2011.
DID YOU KNOW?
The Philharmonic Society was founded by professional musicians in 1813 to perform publicly ‘in the most perfect manner possible, the best and most approved music'.