Luke Bedford: In The Voices Of The Living

Mark Padmore, BBC Symphony Orchestra, London Sinfonietta

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Format: CDR

Cat No: NMCD272

Release Date:  24 November 2023

Label:  NMC Recordings

Packaging Type:  Jewel Case

No of Units:  1

Barcode:  5023363027205

Genres:  Classical  

  • Description

    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.

    "Bedford's music is adventurous, exciting, humane and quite devoid of blandness or the easy option. Terrific performances and sonics [...] Even by the standards of NMC, this is an outstanding disc which deserves the widest currency." - MusicWeb International


    "Bedford's music has a strong personality that asserts itself in the performances by four different orchestras and conductors, and that personality came through to audiences enough to put this album on classical best-seller lists" – AllMusic

    "Tenor Mark Padmore is an eloquent soloist for In the Voices of the Living […]. A brilliant showcase for a unique imagination." – BBC Music Magazine *****

    "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

    "Bedford's music is uncompromising, and satisfyingly so […]. The sheer intensity of Bedford's writing [Outblaze the Sky] is supremely conveyed in Knussen's performance." – Classical Explorer

  • Tracklisting

      Disc 1

      Side 1

      • 1. Instability
      • 2. Outblaze the Sky
      • 3. In the Voices of the Living: I. Speak With The Dead
      • 4. II. Transmittunt
      • 5. III. Hold
      • 6. IV. Risveglia i morti
      • 7. V. After The
      • 8. Concerto for Saxophone Quartet and Orchestra: I. Fast
      • 9. II. Expressive
      • 10. III. Explosive
      • 11. IV. Still
      • 12. V. Tense
      • 13. VI. Tender