Luke Bedford was born in 1978 and studied composition at the Royal College of Music with Edwin Roxburgh and Simon Bainbridge, following a Foundation Scholarship. He then gained a subsequent scholarship to study for a Masters degree at the Royal Academy of Music, again with Simon Bainbridge, with funds provided by the RVW Trust, the Countess of Munster Musical Trust, and the 2000 Mendelssohn Scholarship.
In 2001, the London Sinfonietta premièred Five Abstracts - a chamber work for 14 players. A BBC commission followed - Rode with Darkness, a work for large orchestra, which was premièred by the Hallé Orchestra under Mark Elder in January 2004. The work received its German première in January 2005 from the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester conducted by George Benjamin. In February 2006, Slow Music and Man Shoots Strangers From Skyscraper – both for an ensemble of 8 players – were performed by the Philharmonia as part of their ‘Music of Today’ series.
Later that year, the song cycle Or Voit Tout En Aventure was premièred by the London Sinfonietta with Claire Booth (soprano) and Oliver Knussen. The six movements of the work are settings of three texts written in medieval French and Italian, which are linked in thematic ways by the music. With critics claiming that it ‘stole the show’ at the first performance and how startled they were at the maturity of the music, it has since received many further performances, including a tour across Europe by Ensemble Modern with Anu Komsi and George Benjamin.
Orchestral work Outblaze the Sky was commissioned by the London Symphony Orchestra as part of their ‘Sound Adventures’ series and premièred at the Barbican in April 2007 with Daniel Harding. The title is inspired by the composer’s own reading - a re-working of a phrase in D.M. Thomas’ The White Hotel, which he read whilst composing this work. Bedford was particularly inspired by the ‘dreamlike and highly charged’ poem near the start of the novel, which seemed in certain ways to have parallels with the music that he was writing.
Commissioned by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Wreathe was premièred in December 2007, conducted by Thierry Fischer. Creating a work fifty-percent longer than anything he had previously written, Bedford was keen not to “pre-plan the actual shape of the piece, but to discover it from the material [he] was working with.” Extra weight was given to the lowest orchestral register through the use of a contrabassoon and contrabass clarinet. These darker characteristics dominate much of the music, although their introduction is gradual, appearing “after the predominance of middle and upper registers at the opening of the piece.”
Bedford’s commission from the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, Good Dream She Has, received its première in April 2008. The piece is scored for an ensemble of 15 players and three solo singers, the text being a re-writing of Milton’s Paradise Lost. Oliver Knussen conducted the first performance at the CBSO centre.
Continuing the Milton theme – as part of their celebrations of Milton’s 400th anniversary – the Sing-Akademie zu Berlin recently premièred Bedford’s latest composition On Time, the text taken and adapted from the poem of the same name. Kai-Uwe Jirka led the Berlin Singakademie and Kammersymphonie Berlin in the composer’s first European world première on 5th July 2008.
His accolades include ‘The best piece by a composer under 30’ at the 2005 International Rostrum for Composers in Vienna, the BBC Radio 3 ‘Listeners’ Prize’ at the 2004 British Composer Awards and the Royal Philharmonic Society’s ‘Composition Prize for composers under 29’ in 2000.
Or Voit Tout En Aventure was nominated for the Large-Scale Composition Award at the 2007 Royal Philharmonic Society Awards, and Bedford was recently the recipient of a prestigious Paul Hamlyn Artists’ Award. Wreathe won the British Composer Award in the orchestral category in 2008.
As part of the Ensemble Modern’s Into … project, Bedford spent a month in Johannesburg in 2008, resulting in the composition of By the Screen in the Sun at the Hill on the Gold, which was premièred in Berlin and Frankfurt in March 2009. Più Mosso was premièred by the CBSO Youth Orchestra conducted by Thomas Søndergård in November 2009.
In 2010, the Hallé Orchestra gave the world première of his work, At Three and Two, as part of their Mahler in Manchester series. Bedford’s first opera – Seven Angels, based on Milton’s Paradise Lost – was premièred in 2011 by the Opera Group and the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group.
Bedford was the first ever composer in residence at the Wigmore Hall in London, which has earned him several commissions, including the string quartet Nine Little Boxes, All Carefully Packed (2011).
In Feburary 2012 Wonderful Two-Headed Nightingale was given its world première by the Scottish Ensemble. Bedford was awarded the Ernst von Siemens Musikstiftung Composer’s Prize in music in the same year, and the world premières of Wonderful No-Headed Nightingale and Three Intermezzi took place.
On 28 October 2013, the Arditti String Quartet performed the world première of Wonderful Four-Headed Nightingale for string quartet at Wien Modern.
In 2014, his highly acclaimed opera Through His Teeth (libretto: David Harrower) was premièred at the Royal Opera House.
Ideas in this piece are torn apart by a strange energy and reform in new, dynamic relationships. There is a constant tension between growing and collapsing. That which seems durable can vanish in an instant. The piece will include the Albert Hall organ, a detuned orchestra and possibly the first use of a cricket bat in an orchestral piece.
Commissioned by BBC Radio 3 Instability received its UK premiere on 1 August 2015, performed by the BBC Philharmonic, conducted by Juanjo Mena as part of the BBC Proms 2015 season held at Royal Albert Hall, London.