Release date: 24 November 2023
Luke Bedford (b.1978) is a British composer who, over several decades, has quietly made a significant name among the composers of his generation with a series of award-winning works. Bedford was the first ever composer in residence at the Wigmore Hall in London, and has won numerous prestigious prizes including the Paul Hamlyn Artists Award in 2007, and the Ernst von Siemens Musikstiftung Composer’s Prize in 2012. In the Voices of The Living, Bedford's first album release on NMC, brings together a selection of his orchestral and larger-scale chamber works that span the past 15 years of his career, performed by some of the most renowned artists in the contemporary classical music world.
Music critic and broadcaster Tom Service has written of Bedford's work as being "music of brooding expressive intensity, charged with that indefinable quality that makes a piece sound as if it was written out of sheer necessity." This quite accurately describes the composer's experience when he encountered the catalyst for writing the album's title work; he knew immediately that he must set it to music. The impetus that grabbed Bedford's imagination were the words of American literary historian Stephen Greenblatt which describe his "desire to speak with the dead" through writing. This inspiration became a setting of five texts from across history that are concerned with how the voices of the past speak to us via literature, featuring solo tenor Mark Padmore, with the London Sinfonietta conducted by Geoffrey Paterson.
Literary references underpin much of the music on the album, including a line from D.M. Thomas’s 1981 novel The White Hotel which inspires the shorter, sensual work Outblaze the Sky, heard here performed by the BBC Symphony Orchestra with the late Oliver Knussen conducting. Conveying the image of the eponymous hotel as it burns to the ground, Bedford's music reflects the hazy, surreal ambience of the text.
As Tim Rutherford-Johnson writes in the liner notes for the album, much of Bedford's music seems to be motivated by "the tension between stable ground and destabilising surface," tying his work to "the magic squares of Peter Maxwell Davies and the tectonic pulse maps of Harrison Birtwistle." These polarised forces can be heard clearly on the opening work of the album, the aptly named Instability, a 2015 BBC Proms commission brought to life here by the BBC Philharmonic conducted
by Juanjo Mena, which constantly shifts between hushed stillness and volatile disorder.
Again Bedford toys with unpredictability in the concluding saxophone concerto, written for the Arcis Saxophon Quartett and orchestra (Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin (DSO)). Reversing the typical concerto dynamic, the five compact movements of the work are pithy and unconventional in character, showing off the performer's versatility and virtuosity.
"A brilliant showcase for a unique imagination." ★★★★★ BBC Music Magazine
"The quality of performances, as of performers, says much for the respect in which Bedford’s music is held. Aficionados and newcomers alike should investigate this release," Gramophone
"Taking risks yet maintaining a firm grip, UK composer Bedford brings imaginative volatility to orchestral writing that he holds together with impressive technical resourcefulness." The Wire
"Four orchestras, four pieces: this is a wonderful collection of works by Luke Bedford." Classical Explorer
Instability was recorded by the BBC at the Royal Albert Hall, London, on 1 August 2015 (BBC Radio 3 live broacast on same date).
MIKE GEORGE Producer
STEPHEN RINKER Recording Engineer
Outblaze the Sky was recorded by the BBC at the Royal Albert Hall, London, on 28 July 2010 (BBC Radio 3 live broacast on same date).
ANN MCKAY Producer
SIMON HANCOCK Recording Engineer
In the Voices of the Living was recorded at Kings Place, London, in June 2021.
DAVID LEFEBER Recording Engineer & Producer
Concerto for Saxophone Quartet and Orchestra was recorded by the Deutschlandradio at the Berlin Philharmonie on 18 October 2017.
CLAUS HIERLUKSCH Soprano Saxophone
RICARDA FUSS Alto Saxophone
EDOARDO ZOTTI Tenor Saxophone
JURE KNEZ Baritone Saxophone
CHRISTINE ANDERSON Producer
HEIN LAABS Artistic Sound Engineer
HENRI THAON Technical Sound Engineer
DAVID LEFEBER Mastering
Release date: 24 November 2023
Catalogue no: NMC D272