Summoning Voices of the Past: Luke Bedford on his new album

16th November 2023

Articles NMC Recordings

Award-winning composer Luke Bedford gives us an insight into his forthcoming album 'In the Voices of the Living', which has been in the works for several years and is due for release next Friday 24 November

It’s a funny thought that at least one of the pieces included on this album wasn’t even written when we first had conversations about the project. It illustrates nicely that whatever your first ideas are – whether composing a piece, or putting an album together – the final result is often markedly different from where you started. I am delighted with how this has come together and feel it gives a strong impression of my larger-scale works.

Although we were not able to get the orchestral pieces recorded in a studio, David Lefeber, the engineer, has done outstanding work in cleaning up the radio recordings we do have. Indeed, he has done such a good job, that it is almost like having brand new performances of the pieces. I had never really given much thought to how the noises on recordings might affect my own appreciation of a work. But on reflection, it is to be expected that the composer is particularly sensitive to any extra sounds that occur during a performance. A cough here or an unexpected thump there, really can be almost upsetting. So to have these magically erased is not only a relief, but transforms the listening experience.

Mark Padmore with the London Sinfonietta

The earliest work to be included is the short orchestral piece Outblaze the Sky (2006). I am pleased we were able to include a recording made by the late Olly Knussen, who was such an advocate for new works and supporter of composers.

The other purely orchestra work is Instability (2014-15), which was premiered at the Proms by the BBC Philharmonic in 2015. This was one of the times where I went against the advice to do the sensible thing, and write a respectable, well-behaved piece for standard orchestra. I embraced the fact it was to be premiered at the cavernous Albert Hall, so scored it for a large orchestra, used the organ prominently, and asked half the orchestra to detune by a quarter-tone.

Luke Bedford

My Concerto for Saxophone Quartet and Orchestra (2016-17) is still waiting for its UK premiere, but we are fortunate to have the world premiere, recorded at the Philharmonie Berlin, with the Arcis Saxophone Quartet, and the Deutsches Symphonie Berlin.

The piece I am most pleased to include is the most recent: In the Voices of the Living (2017-19), which was premiered in 2021 by Mark Padmore and the London Sinfonietta. The premiere, delayed on several occasions by Covid, was the first I attended in person in the aftermath of the pandemic: staggered seating, a masked audience, and we had to take a Covid test every day in order to attend rehearsals. I feel privileged that on the day following the concert, we recorded the piece with the same performers. Mark’s expressive, dramatic performance is something I treasure very much. It also serves as something of a personal reminder of those strange, tense times, as we emerged out of lockdown.

Mark Padmore

In the Voices of the Living is released by NMC on 24 November 2023.

The photos throughout this article were taken by photographer Monika Jabukowska during the concert performance and recording session for In the Voices of the Living featuring London Sinfonietta and Mark Padmore at Kings Place, London in 2021.

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