WORKS: The Song of the White Horse; Star Clusters, Nebulae & Places in Devon
PERFORMER: Diana Coulson (treble); Queen’s College Choir, Nash Ensemble/Steuart Bedford; LPO Chorus & Brass/John Alldis
CATALOGUE NO: VP 110 CD DDD
The British composer David Bedford, now in his fifties, is woefully under-represented in the recording catalogue, so this reissue which presents two of his larger-scale works for chorus and instruments should be most welcome. Star Clusters, Nebulae & Places in Devon, written in 1971, is a powerful work for choir and brass, setting texts concerned with astronomical catalogues and place names from maps or signposts in Devon.
This transfer to CD, however, is saddled with the balance (and the hiss) of the original LP, so the London Philharmonic choir sounds at times both distant and distorted. But if the rich words of the text are inaudible, there is nevertheless some dazzlingly energetic playing from the London Philharmonic brass.
Bedford’s music is immediately approachable, combining simplicity and Englishness in its pastoral quality. The Song of the White Horse, a musical evocation of the Ridgeway footpath to the White Horse of Uffington, is very much a piece from the Seventies, with its prominent use of synthesizers. But it is immensely appealing, with a magical opening and strangely affecting tune for solo treble, ably sung by Diana Coulson. Bedford is, of course, best known for his pioneering work in music education and a work like The Song of the White Horse demonstrates why. Annette Morreau