Composer David Bedford has died of lung cancer, aged 74. Bedford employed a wide range of styles and media in a half-century career that saw him move from iconoclast to eclectic purveyor of music for all seasons and needs.
Bedford was born in Hendon, London, into a musical family. His grandmother, Liza Lehmann, was a composer. His mother, Lesley Duff, was a singer with the English Opera Group in the late 1940s, working with Benjamin Britten. After going to Lancing college, West Sussex, David studied with Lennox Berkeley at the Royal Academy of Music, London, and then, in 1961, with Luigi Nono. On returning to London, he initially earned much of his living by schoolteaching. This was the first impulse for his many compositions for children and amateur performers.
In the late 1960s, Bedford moved into pop music, working with Kevin Ayers and his rock group The Whole World. One band member was Mike Oldfield, whose highly successful Tubular Bells album was released in 1973: Bedford was involved in its first performance, and orchestrated the work for a further album, The Orchestral Tubular Bells (1975). His involvement in the pop world led him to compose several concept albums, including The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (1975) and The Odyssey (1976).
Though perhaps best known in concert halls during the 1960s and 70s, Bedford always remained in the public ear, whether as composer of concert or educational music, as an arranger for Billy Bragg, Elvis Costello and many others, or as a film composer, with credits including The Killing Fields (1984), Orlando (1992) and several Hammer House of Mystery and Suspense TV series.