Luke Bedford: Outblaze The Sky

  • for orchestra
  • 3 3 3 3 - 4 3 3 1 - timp, perc(2), hp, cel, str
  • Duration: 6’
  • Instrumentation details:
    1st flute
    2nd flute
    alto flute
    1st oboe
    2nd oboe
    cor anglais
    1st clarinet in Bb
    2nd clarinet in Bb
    bass clarinet in Bb
    1st bassoon
    2nd bassoon
    1st horn in F
    2nd horn in F
    3rd horn in F
    4th horn in F
    1st trumpet in C
    2nd trumpet in C
    3rd trumpet in C
    1st trombone
    2nd trombone
    bass trombone
    violin I
    violin II
  • Composer: Luke Bedford
  • Commission: Commissioned by the London Symphony Orchestra in partnership with UBS.

Work introduction

The title is a reworking of a phrase in D. M. Thomas’ ‘The White Hotel’ which I reread while composing this piece. I was especially interested in the dreamlike and highly charged poem near the start of the novel, which seemed, in my mind, to have certain parallels with the music that I was writing.

As it is only a short six minute work, I wanted to stick to one idea throughout and explore that. I imagined the piece to have a warmth and a certain haziness, and the result is that virtually every new pitch is scored with glissandi, harmonics, flutter-tonguing, tremolandi and molto vibrato. But the music is very slow throughout, and only properly ‘blazes’ in the final section.

Luke Bedford


The complete perusal score (PDF-preview)

World première

Barbican, London (GB)
London SO
Daniel Harding

Press reviews

Reviews of the Proms concert 2010 with the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Oliver Knussen

"Luke Bedford’s recent Outblaze the Sky was a much more straightforward proposition [than Colin Matthews’s Violin Concerto], taking a single close-knit chord and leading it step-by-step into radiant heights." (Ivan Hewett, The Telegraph)

"Luke Bedford's Outblaze the Sky from 2006 is hardly much bigger [than Birtwistle's Sonance Severance], a sequence of luminous, beautifully voiced Scriabin-like chords worked to a fiery climax." (Andrew Clements, The Guardian)

"Outblaze the Sky is a steadily paced six-minute piece that fleshes out each successive pitch with a penumbra of glissandi, harmonics, flutter-tonguing and tremolandi. The effect is of haloes of sound in another impressively wrought score from this composer." (Barry Millington, London Evening Standard)

More blog posts on this concert at Boulezian and Classical Iconoclast.

Other reviews

“The LSO has a cunningly enlightened policy of occasionally and secretly embedding a brand new work within a programme, so that it has a large, unsuspecting and captive audience. This time it was a five-minute orchestral crescendo of light and intensity by Luke Bedford, called Outblaze The Sky. Born of his reading of D. M. Thomas’s novel The White Hotel while “playing around with some chords”, mirage-like waves of glissandos in pitched percussion and strings, pierced by bright wind and brass, reach a climax evocative of the surreal eroticism of the novel.” (The Times)


“But when the audience arrived at the hall, they discovered they were getting a bonus - the first performance of Luke Bedford's Outblaze The Sky, the latest in the series of short orchestral pieces that the LSO has been commissioning from British composers.

The orchestra has made a fetish of not announcing these premieres in advance - a dubious idea that seems to be driven by the fear that some of the audience might be deterred by the prospect of hearing nasty contemporary music. Those who got to hear Bedford's piece, then, can count themselves lucky. Inspired by a passage in DM Thomas's The White Hotel, it is a blissfully direct, superbly scored miniature, based on a rotating sequence of luscious chords that generates a surging wave of sound, full of aching glissandos and richly scored textures, as if Scriabin had been reincarnated in the 21st century.” (The Guardian)


“A "Sound Adventures" premiere is supposed to be a surprise, unannounced in the brochures. But finding out is easy - Luke Bedford's Outblaze The Sky was listed in the magazine New Notes, and the LSO will alert you by text if you ask.

This latest novelty probably pleased everybody. Inspired by the sexual charge of DM Thomas's novel The White Hotel, it works up a crescendo with increasingly luscious chords and slides that begin with a Mahlerian ache and end in a deluge as the orchestration turns bright and high-pitched. That was all: surely this is just the prelude to some opera or symphony.” (The Independent)


“Another surprise was to come with an extra item added to the programme. In Luke Bedford’s Outblaze The Sky a large orchestra describes an arc of sound hanging in the air, almost motionless at times and often beautiful, but just at the point when one was ready for the piece to move on, it stopped – a shame.” (Financial Times)


“The second half started with one of the UBS commissions from young composers — short pieces interpolated into LSO programmes without public notice. Luke Bedford’s Outblaze The Sky, inspired by DM Thomas’s novel The White Hotel, was a six-minute invention simply but tellingly made from sliding chords and colours: a use of “tone-colour-melody” that might have been a homage to Schoenberg’s Five Orchestral Pieces.” (Paul Driver, The Sunday Times)


Previously Viewed Works

No previously viewed works