LUKE BEDFORD (b.1978): Wonderful Two-Headed Nightingale for Violin, Viola and Ensemble (Jonathan Morton [violin], Lawrence Power [viola], Scottish Ensemble), By the Screen in the Sun at the Hill on the Gold for Ensemble (Ensemble Modern; Sian Edwards), Chiaroscuro for Piano Trio (Fidelio Trio), Man Shoots Strangers from Skyscraper for 8 Players (Ensemble Modern; Franck Ollu), Or Voit Tout En Aventure for Soprano and 16 Players (Claire Booth [soprano], London Sinfonietta; Oliver Knussen).
Catalogue Number: 11O100
Label: col legno
Reference: WWE 1CD 40405
Description: Bedford's idiom is surprisingly approachable, in view of the eclectic mix of modern techniques that he freely employs, often juxtaposed with what sounds like a neo-romantic approach to harmony, especially as encountered in minimal music. Nightingale - the title refers to a pair of Siamese twins who appeared as a novelty singing act in the 19th century - is a double concerto which starts out based on simple cells based on the fifths implied by the strings' tuning, but becomes quarter-tonal as it progresses, with the soloists theatrically - and dissonantly - trying to exert their independence while being bound by the same material. Screen is based on an arpeggiated figure which dominates the music throughout. In the work's early stages the overlapping layers and permutations of this basic element seem to imply a connection with minimalism, but its interactions become increasingly chaotic, eventually ending up as bursts of dissonant quasi-noise. Chiaroscuro follows a similar process, beginning with a gently undulating, rather monotonous motif and static, tonal harmony, with the three instruments in closely bound collaboration; little by little, though, the strings move into an increasingly microtonal landscape, where the piano cannot follow. The song cycle sets texts borrowed from 14th-century Ars subtilior songs, with allusions to the rhythmic complexities of the original style, but decontextualized, so that Bedford's settings have a floating, dreamlike quality, in rich but unstable chord sequences underlying the florid vocal line.