David Bednall - Composer, Organist and Pianist


Magna Voce, Organ Works by David Bednall - Paul Walton on the Organ of Blackburn Cathedral (Regent Records)

"Readers of OR will, I’m sure, be familiar with the choral music of David Bednall that has been recorded by a variety of labels. Regent/Gary Cole now add a disc of his organ music which, in the words of the composer ‘spans my compositional career to date’. Bednall is an organist of considerable distinction himself, so his writing for the instrument is splendidly idiomatic. The French organist/composers such as Messiaen, Duruflé et al have influenced him, as has the French flair for improvisation, and he says that Howells and Leighton have also brought influence to bear on his work.

The main work on this disc is Triptych in Honour of Herbert Howells and it was written for Paul Walton who premiered it in Bristol Cathedral in 2016. Howells’s music is never quoted, but his shadow hovers brilliantly over the music - a significant and welcome addition to the repertoire. The remaining, shorter, pieces on this CD show every aspect of Bednall’s compositional skill, from a meditation on the Passion Chorale, through a Toccata (a Cochereau- esque sortie) on the hymn-tune Aberystwyth, via an extraordinary (in a good way!) Berceuse where a hymn-tune by John Stainer meets Louis Vierne, to an extended piece that evokes the atmosphere of the Jesse window in Wells Cathedral using the Advent plainsong antiphon O Radix Jesse - a piece full of colour and imaginatively conceived.

This is music that Paul Walton obviously loves, and his playing is wonderfully assured - the music sings and dances by turns. He is splendidly partnered by the great organ of Blackburn Cathedral, and Gary Cole has worked his usual magic with the recording. Altogether a really fine disc." Roger Judd, Organists' Review, March 2018 (Five-star review)


"With six CDs available devoted to Bednall’s choral music, it is good to see Regent spotlight his organ works. The works span Bednall’s compositional career to date, from the romantic idyll Adagio for Organ to a 23–minute Triptych in Honour of Herbert Howells especially written for the recording. Bednall’s style is a highly successful fusion of the English school of Howells and Leighton with the mysticism and drama of French organists of the 20th century. The Blackburn Cathedral organ is the perfect vehicel for this mélange and, in the hands of Paul Walton and recording engineer Gary Cole, Bednall’s music really sings and dances. Walton revels in this music, from the boisterous and extrovert drama of several toccatas to some sublime meditations." Rupert Gough, Choir and Organ January/February 2018 (Star Review)


"Howells, Messiaen and Eben all inform Bednall’s thrilling, richly layered music. Paul Walton does him proud on Blackburn Cathedral’s Walker instrument." BBC Music, January 2018 (4 stars)


Sudden Light with The Epiphoni Consort, Stephen Farr (Organ) and Tim Reader (Delphian Records)

"‘Lux’ – the opening word of the opening track on ‘Sudden Light’, Lux orta est iusto – bursts into the ear, a glittering explosion of sound that scatters its bright shards in all directions with wonderful abandon. It’s a brilliant moment of music-drama, one of many on a disc that reinforces composer David Bednall’s real gift for word-setting.

Bednall has been quietly building up an impressive discography over the past few years, mostly thanks to the British label Regent, which most recently released his poignant Stabat mater (A/16). This new collection of choral works is interesting on two counts: as a chance to hear Bednall’s secular part-songs (less well represented on disc than his sacred works) and as the debut recording from the award-winning UK choir Epiphoni and their director Tim Reader.

Andrew Stewart’s elegant booklet notes stress Bednall’s Englishness, placing him in a long line of Romantic moderns like Edward Bawden and John Piper. But it’s the French influences that strike most forcefully in the composer’s sacred music, where a love of chant and some hazy, highly perfumed harmonies take us into the Catholic world of Duruflé, even Messiaen at times.

The exquisite miniature Tota pulchra es and the deft hymn-harmonisation of Te lucis ante terminum are representative of music that isn’t afraid of simplicity, its lovely melodies needing the apology of no harmonic modesty-cover. Best though is the giddy ecstasy of the Song of Solomon setting Rise up, my love, with its swelling, priapic organ accompaniment, and the Three Songs of Love – beautifully crafted settings of verses by Clare and Yeats that serve their texts faithfully." Alexandra Coghlan, Gramophone, September 2017


"The Epiphoni Consort is a 32-strong SATB choir (9/9/6/8). The choir was founded in 2014 and this is their debut recording. The singers have all received advanced vocal and choral training but have not chosen to pursue professional careers. Let it be said loud and clear that on the evidence of this disc the Consort is a most accomplished ensemble. The sound they make is first-rate: the tone is fresh and firm; there’s excellent internal balance; and the diction is crystal clear. I really enjoyed listening to their performances.

Many choirs faced with making their debut disc would have chosen a mixed recital programme. Hats off, then, to Tim Reader for his enterprise in choosing a single-composer programme of pieces by one of the brightest talents in British choral music. The enterprise is enhanced because with the exception of Everyone Sang and the three excerpts from the Christmas cantata, Welcome All Wonders the programme otherwise consists of first recordings.

I’ve heard several discs of music by David Bednall in recent years and, in addition, individual pieces of his have cropped up in a number of mixed recital recordings. I’ve greatly admired what I’ve heard so I’m delighted to expand my knowledge of his output through these recorded premieres. Furthermore, to the best of my recollection, most if not all of his music that I’ve heard to date has been sacred in nature. Here The Epiphoni Consort include several examples of Bednall’s secular pieces.

Let’s start with those. Three Songs of Love actually sets four poems; two poems by W B Yeats constitute the middle song. The other poets set are John Clare and the Canadian, John McCrae (1872-1918). In his excellent notes on the music Andrew Stewart suggests that these settings “deserve to be measured against the finest partsongs of Holst, Parry, Pearsall and Vaughan Williams.” I completely agree, though I’d add one important name to that list: Gerald Finzi. Indeed, the opening phrase of the John Clare setting, First Love, calls to mind the opening of Finzi’s My spirit sang all day. This set of songs is very fine indeed. The harmonic writing is rich and warm and Bednall’s music seems to me to be an excellent response to each of the poems he has selected. I also admire the Shakespeare setting Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? while Sudden Light, a setting of lines by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, is another example of rich harmonisation; it’s a beautiful part song.

I’d normally classify Siegfried Sassoon’s poem Everyone Sang as a secular text but here it straddles the secular and sacred repertoires because Bednall set it as a wedding blessing. I’ve heard this piece before and I think it’s excellent. It begins confidently and joyfully but then, as the poem unfolds, Bednall matches Sassoon’s sentiments and the piece winds down to a pensive conclusion as the choir quietly repeats several times the line “The singing will never be done.” A Wedding Prayer is a very different nuptial piece. I infer from the notes that it is designed for a solo soprano with organ accompaniment but here unison sopranos sing it. The melody, discreetly accompanied, is simple and direct, touching the heart gently. It was a wedding gift to the composer’s sister and her husband: what a lovely present!

Tim Reader and his choir include three movements from David Bednall’s substantial Christmas cantata, Welcome All Wonders. This was written for Bednall’s alma mater, Queen’s College, Oxford and that college’s choir has recorded the complete work (review). If you don’t know the cantata then I hope these three excellently sung extracts will whet your appetite to seek it out. Tribus miraculis ornatum has dancing, jubilant music at the beginning and end encasing a warm contemplative central episode. But peaceful was the night is a lovely Milton setting, simple and expressive. Alleluia is actually the second movement (and the first vocal movement) in the cantata but here it forms a suitably joyous end to the programme. Like Randall Thompson before him, Bednall here proves that you can do an awful lot with a setting of just one word.

The opening piece in the programme is spectacular. Lux orta est iusto was composed in 2015 specifically to be performed alongside Tallis’s Spem in alium. Bednall’s piece is also in forty parts – he uses eight SATBarB choirs – and for this 15 extra singers have been drafted in. It’s a virtuoso a cappella composition which shows to the full David Bednall’s imaginative ear for choral textures. There’s a great deal of contrast too; sometimes we hear the full forces while at other times just one or two of the choirs are involved. The piece is something of a compositional tour de force and I should imagine it’s very challenging to coordinate. The present performance is marvellous and the recording brings out the spatial effects in the score most successfully.

Rise up, my love is also spectacular, not least on account of its organ part. There’s a short but hugely imposing organ introduction which sounds very French and much of the choral writing achieves a note of ecstasy that sounds like Howells on steroids. There’s a quiet, unaccompanied passage in the middle (‘Set me as a seal upon thine heart’) before the opening material is revisited even more splendidly. This is thrilling but the piece achieves a rapt, gentle close.

All the music on this disc is very fine and full of interest. David Bednall is a highly accomplished and eloquent choral composer and there are many choice examples of his art here. He’s exceptionally well served by The Epiphoni Consort who give assured and expert performances, their singing full of conviction. Clearly, Tim Reader has prepared them very thoroughly for this assignment.

The recorded sound is fully up to Paul Paul Baxter's usual very high standards; the choir is heard clearly and in a pleasing acoustic ambience while the organ is superbly reported. Delphian invariably accompany their discs with excellent documentation and that’s the case here.

This is a most auspicious recording debut for The Epiphoni Consort; I look forward to hearing them again." John Quinn, MusicWeb International


"The composer David Bednall and the Epiphoni Consort choir are both rather new on the scene as of the 2010s, but here they've produced a top-notch recording of music that's firmly rooted in the English choral tradition, yet absolutely distinctive. Annotator Andrew Stewart accurately points to aspects held in common by Bednall and the English "Romantic Moderns" of the 1930s, yet it might be better to call him a Romantic Eclectic. Some of the pieces here, taken in isolation, fit with those of other composers of the English, neo-tonal school, but it's the sequence of events that's more unusual. The music is sacred and secular, Latin and English, diatonic and polytonal, and thickly chromatic, yet all recognizably a product of the same pen. Sample the transition from the spacious Latin motet Lux orta est iusto (written for performance with Tallis' Spem in alium, for similar forces) to the following setting of Rise up, my love, from the Song of Songs, which opens with a long organ prelude that reminds you of Vierne or Duruflé. The predominance of Shakespeare among the secular texts links the program closely to English tradition, but the settings are extremely varied, from madrigalistic to Poulenc-like, to works in the Vaughan Williams vein. The overall effect is lively and even a bit experimental, an impression reinforced by the choir-of-individuals approach of the Epiphoni Consort. Delphian contributes superb engineering work in the Church of St. John the Evangelist in Upper Norwood, Southeast London. This is new choral music that's well worth checking out." James Manheim, allmusic.com


Stabat Mater (including Marian Suite and Ave Maria) with Jennifer Pike (Violin), Edward Whiting (Director) and Benenden Chapel Choir (Regent Records)

"This is the fourth Regent CD to feature music by David Bednall (b1979), one of Britain’s leading choral composers. The first disc, ‘Hail, Gladdening Light’ (5/07), was a Gramophone Editor’s Choice, and I feel that this new release – featuring an entirely Marian-themed programme – will also prove to be a decisive milestone in his compositional development. The centrepiece is a new setting of the Stabat mater, first heard in New York last year, which received its UK premiere in June with the artists featured here.

Nearly an hour in duration, the 13th-century sequence is cast in 11 movements, including an important prelude for violin and organ, which identifies several leading motifs. The violin takes a central role: Bednall associates it directly with Mary’s sorrow. The work’s idiom is immediate and easily digested. Although Bednall specifically refers to Howells’s influence in his excellent booklet-note, it is very subtly assimilated and is more obvious in the organ accompaniment, with its scrunchy meanderings over long pedal notes. There is also a strong French flavour (for example in the exquisite ‘Eia mater’) and the violin’s sense of rhapsodic lament – played with passionate intensity by the superb Jennifer Pike – points more to Hebraic chant. The young choristers clearly relish the vividness of Bednall’s word-painting. This significant addition will surely be taken up by many of our other crack upper-voice choirs.

Congratulations to the parents of Benenden School’s Chapel Choir, who provided funds towards the commission and to Edward Whiting for producing such a polished, vibrant and unforced tonal blend. With the composer at Tonbridge School Chapel’s Marcussen, this can be said to be an authoritative account.

Both the Marian Suite for violin and organ and the serene Ave Maria were composed especially for this recording. The former is a deftly contrasted triptych and will make a useful addition to the limited violin-and-organ repertory. Strongly recommended." Malcolm Riley, Editor's Choice, Gramophone Magazine Awards Edition, September 2016


"David Bednall's new Stabat Mater is written for the relatively unusual combination of upper voiced choir, violin and organ. On this disc from Regent Records the work gets its first recording by the group which commissioned it, Edward Whiting and Benenden Chapel Choir, and they are joined by David Bednall, organ, and Jennifer Pike, violin. David Bednall and Jennifer Pike also perform Bednall's Marian Suite and all performers come together for his Ave Maria.

The Stabat Mater is substantial, nearly an hour long. It is the second major work which Bednall has written for Edward Whiting and his choir, Bednall's Requiem was written for them in 2008. In his article in the CD booklet, David Bednall cites Herbert Howells' Stabat Mater as one of his influences (along with the settings by Palestrina, Pergolesi and Szymanowski). The music of Ernst Bloch and James MacMillan was also an influence, and MacMillan's own Stabat Mater will be premiered by The Sixteen this autumn.

After a lyrically intense prelude for violin and organ, where the influence of Bloch can really be felt, it is the music of Herbert Howells which really springs to mind. Bednall uses Howells familiar texture of richly harmonised organ part with a choir singing a line which is starts from a unison melody. Here Bednall's lyrical vocal writing also reminds me of Durufle in works like the
Messe cum jubilo where the vocal line is super-charged plainchant. Bednall's vocal writing seems here to constantly have the idea of plainchant running behind it.

Jennifer Pike's violin is used sometimes as obbligato, to comment and punctuate, and sometimes to provide interludes. There is a highly relaxed, spacious feel to the structure of the piece. David Bednall certainly does not give the impression of being pressured by the sheer length of the poem (20 verses in all) and there are many incidental felicities for solo organ, or organ and violin. Though Bednall has conceptually grouped the verses into sections the piece plays virtually continuously, though it has been helpfully divided into 11 tracks

The choir numbers 28 girls aged between 13 and 18 and, directed by Edward Whiting, they sing with an admirably firm and flexible tone, bringing a lovely suppleness to Bednall's long chant-inspired vocal lines. Jennifer Pike's violin playing has the same lyrical intensity, though I did think she was placed too far forward in the aural mix. And of course Bednall brings the sense of the composer a ideal interpreter on the organ.

David Bednall's
Marian Suite for violin and organ was written for the recording and feels like an extension of the Stabat Mater. The disc concludes with the lovely Ave Maria for choir, violin and organ, written specially for the recording and given a glowing warm performance.

This not the most gut-wrenching of music, instead Bednall brings a lyrical intensity to the setting, given a poised performance by the choir and supported by some luxuriant harmonies in the organ. If Herbert Howells later liturgical music or the music of Durufle appeals to you then you should have no hesitation at listening to this disc."
www.planethugill.com, September 2016


"Despite David Bednall’s acknowledged debt to past composers who have made settings of the Stabat Mater, it is clear that Herbert Howells’s version is the one to which he feels closest. This is not to suggest that Bednall is backward–looking in his outlook – to be sure, he is firmly embedded in the Anglican choral tradition – but, despite his adherence to a musical language rooted in tonality, he manages to offer fresh perspectives without always losing some Howellsian harmony. His Stabat Mater is an engrossing and substantial composition (it plays for almost an hour), conceived for the modest forces of girls’ upper voices, organ and violin (often representing Mary’s sorrow) from which Bednall extracts maximum emotional and dramatic effect. His 12–minute Marian Suite (conceived for Pike) and brief Ave Maria obviously complement the theme of the Stabat Mater. Regent’s open–spaced recording enhances the excellent Kent–based Benenden Chapel Choir, whose contribution is to be loudly applauded. They offer consistently natural, clear–voiced singing that brings credit to themselves and their director Edward Whiting. Bednall’s own organ playing adds further authority to a welcome release." Philip Reed, Choir and Organ, September/October 2016.
"For a choral work just premièred in 2015, David Bednall's setting of the Stabat Mater certainly seems to reach back through many centuries for its inspiration, conception and character. The text dates back to the 13th century and is full of powerfully dramatic and passionate meaning and imagery. Bednall sets the tone immediately with an emotionally charged Prelude, scored only for violin and organ. But don't let that fool you. It's impact is profound enough to leave scars and haunt your soul. Violinist Jennifer Pike plays a crucial role in its effect, with a reading that is passionate, emotive and highly evocative. Add the fact that recording engineer Gary Cole achieves perfect balance between the violin and the pipe organ, even when it is going full stops, and the sound alone is enough to grab your full attention. And when the 30 girls voices of the Benenden Chapel Choir make their entrance during the Stabat mater dolorosa that follows, is when you feel the power of the writing pull you back over many centuries, and evoke ancient times and the hallowed sanctity of it all.

The music is at times simply beautiful (Eia, Mater, fons amoris), can transcend time (Fac me tecum), or can touch the sublime in its final movement (Christe, cum sit hinc exire). The combination of girls choir, violin and pipe organ is unusual, but does it ever work. The music itself is infused with an innate gentleness that unites this combination into one, while still being fuelled by an underlying powerful force. Those of you who may believe that today's music has lost its way, need only listen to this recording to realize that some composers, like David Bednall, are still journeying down the main highway."
Jean-Yves Duperron, Classical Music Sentinel, August 2016
"David Bednall’s Stabat mater is in eleven parts. The solo violin of Jennifer Pike opens the 'Prelude' with a long theme that evokes the feel of anguish, bringing a rather Jewish inflection. The organ joins with gentle chords before the violin rises through some passionate passages. Soon the organ introduces a more resolute theme which the violin takes ahead over the organ, rising to a peak for both instruments in an impressive moment before the violinist finds a penetrating hush over the organ to lead into the next section.
The organ moves quietly and gently into the 'Stabat mater dolorosa' with a remote, isolated quality.  The Benenden Chapel Choir enter with the words 'Stabat mater dolorosa juxta crucem lacrimosa' (The grieving mother stood beside the cross) never disturbing the atmosphere of mournful isolation. These fine young female voices are excellent, so appropriate to this theme of a mother’s suffering. The organ suddenly rises up dramatically to lead the voices ahead in a passionate section. The music moves through moments that bring a real tension, the organ and choir weaving lovely sonorities yet with an underlying strength before leading to the coda over soft pulsating organ phrases.

With 'O quam tristis' the organ brings a gentle theme over which the violin adds an exquisite line. The choir join in a gentle, sad 'O quam tristis et afflicta' (O how sad and afflicted) with the violin weaving a lovely line over the organ. The violin adds some sudden shimmering chords before the music rises up for choir, organ and violin. The violin leads forward over the organ with choir joining in a quite lovely conclusion.

The organ brings an anxious opening to 'Quis est homo' to which the choir joins, bringing a sense of gently urgency. Later the violin joins to bring richer phrases, adding to the tension, rising to a fine climax before falling as the violin plays a mournful melody over the organ as we are led into 'Vidit suum dulcem' where the violin holds a hushed note as the choir sing a quiet and gentle 'Vidit suum dulcem Natum' (She saw her sweet Son).

The mood lightens as the organ introduces 'Eia, Mater, fons amoris' the choir soon enters, bringing a lovely flow, finely phrased. The violin adds occasionally wistful moments before the solo voice of Olivia Wollaston appears, bringing a lovely purity. The choir continues, rising to a peak before some quite lovely choral singing finds the coda.

The organ introduces 'Sancta Mater' with a sense of gravitas and drama, rising slowly and speeding to a dramatic passage where the choir enters, full of strength and drama with 'Sancta Mater, istud agas, crucifixi fige plagas cordi meo valide' (Holy Mother, grant that the wounds of the Crucified drive deep into my heart) through a section that is in the finest tradition of English choral writing, moving through moments of intense passion and drama before falling as the organ plods to a conclusion.

In 'Fac me tecum' Jennifer Pike’s violin enters alone with a slow, rather mournful theme that is developed through some lovely passages. The organ joins, quickly joined by the choir who bring 'Fac me tecum pie flere' (Let me sincerely weep with you) over a held organ note.  The violin returns to weave its sad tune over the organ line before the choir continues over a deep organ chord. The choir and organ find some lovely choral harmonies, expertly sung by this fine choir before the violin is heard over a stronger organ line, leading to the end.

The choir alone bring 'Virgo virginum', finding a lovely pace, wonderfully phrased, developing some very fine part writing to which this choir brings a lovely clarity before a finely controlled conclusion.

The organ leaps in with a tremendously energetic and dramatic opening to 'Fac me plagis vulnerari'. The choir enters on the words 'Fac me plagis vulnerari' (Let me be wounded) providing a fine rise and fall. The organ continues to bring moments of drama and tension, wonderfully played by the composer. Soon the solo violin joins immediately followed by the choir as all three develop the tension, rising to a peak. There are many moments of drama in this fast moving sequence before suddenly reducing to a slow mournful solo violin, a moment of stunning contrast. The solo voice of Flo Rivington enters to which the choir joins, then violin. In a most affecting moment a hushed single violin note leads to a hushed organ passage. Bednall, as both composer and organist finds such poetry and feeling here before leading to the conclusion and into the final section.

The organ quietly continues with a gentle pulse to go into 'Christe, cum sit hinc exire' with the choir gently entering in a quite lovely 'Christe, cum sit hinc exire da per Matrem me venire ad palman victoriae' (Christ, when Thou shalt call me hence, may I through your attain the palm of victory). The violin brings a rich sonorous, melancholy line to lead ahead over the organ. The choir re-joins, rising a little before an extended Amen leads with violin and organ to the lovely gentle coda.

All in all this is a remarkably fine work full of poetry, passion and deep feeling. It is most wonderfully sung by the Benenden Chapel Choir under their director Edward Whiting with very fine playing indeed from both Jennifer Pike and David Bednall.

The Marian Suite for violin and organ was written for the soloist here, Jennifer Pike who is joined by David Bednall (organ). The first and last movements are paraphrases on the Gregorian chants Ave Maria and Ave maris stella. The organ brings a gentle opening to 'Ave Maria' over which the solo violin lays a gently flowing melody, bringing a rather contemplative quality. It later increases in passion before the organ and violin find an exquisitely gentle end. The organ introduces a lovely 'Mary's Lullaby' with the violin soon joining to add a timeless, very English sounding melody with a lovely, subtle rocking pulse. The music moves through stronger, richer moments before finding a lovely hushed coda. In 'Ave maris stella' the solo violin finds a more dynamic, faster moving theme with the organ bringing some lovely passages as this section all but dances ahead, full of vigour. There is some excellent playing from Jennifer Pike and David Bednall as we are taken through some impressive passages. Towards the end there is a terrific organ passage, before the violin and organ find a vibrant coda. 

Ave Maria was composed for the Benenden Chapel Choir for this recording. The organ opens gently, soon joined by the violin to weave a lovely melody. The choir joins in this rather lovely setting, in many ways an encapsulation of Bednall’s choral style and a lovely way to conclude this fine disc

There is music of strength, beauty and passion here showing that the English choral tradition is alive and well, yet with such originality. 

The choir and soloists are beautifully recorded in the fine acoustic of the Chapel of St. Augustine, Tonbridge School, UK. There are excellent booklet notes from the composer as well as full Latin texts and English translations. The booklet is nicely illustrated." Bruce Reader, The Classical Reviewer


Silent Film Improvisation to Metropolis (1927)

If the supremely talented Bednall did anything during his live improv accompaniment, it was dazzle and hypnotise with the skill of a true musical artist and craftsman.

There's something undeniably thrilling about a live musical accompaniment to a movie...if you're going to add live musical background to a film, you may as well make it a good one – and in terms of filmic historical significance and spectacle, they don't come much more herculean that Fritz Lang's 1927 masterpiece, Metropolis.

The Victoria Rooms presentation of Metropolis in its most complete version saw organist David Bednall improvise to Fritz Lang's black and white celluloid behemoth.

Though he's only 35, Bednall has already established himself as formidable and prodigious talent. He's an in-demand composer, organist and freelancer, combining studies with organist duties at Bristol Cathedral, as well as performing at the University of Bristol, Gloucester Cathedral and Wells Cathedral.

After a brief introduction and synopsis, the lights dimmed, the film began and the first inter-titles appeared on screen – and he launched into a stunning improvised performance.  

His accompaniment to Lang's extraordinary movie was sublime, effortlessly matching the visuals' ebb and flow and creating an aural soundscape that heightened the onscreen action.

The workers grinding away in the catacombs of the capitalist machine were given rhythmic, mechanical musical accents; the birth of the robotic Hel (inspiration for Star Wars' C3-PO) was treated with an eerie, undulating menace; a dream sequence and the attack of a catacomb of reanimated skeletons were given thundering, reverberating bass notes and cascading arpeggios. 

It was a nuanced and perfectly timed performance, a rendition of improvised craftsmanship and skill; controlled, confident, and with a clearly-honed dramatic sense that on occasion made it seem as if his performance had actually been written for the film.  

Essentially, Bednall was recreating the original audience' experience of the silent movie era, perceptively and skilfully synching music to image, modulating his performance to reflect the range of visuals with perfectly judged musical dynamics which met the emotional and dramatic needs of the film. 

It was loud during moments of high melodrama but appropriately toned down, subtle and romantic when the film dictated it, and he utilised the full range of the organ's sounds, timbre and expressivity to pitch-perfectly evoke the mood and tone of each sequence.   

When Metropolis was first released, Fritz Lang said he wanted the movie's ground-breaking set design fusion of Art Deco, Modernism, Gothic and German Expressionism to "dazzle, distract and hypnotise."

If the supremely talented Bednall did anything during his live improv accompaniment, it was dazzle and hypnotise with the skill of a true musical artist and craftsman. 

5/5, Jamie Caddick (see full review at http://www.365bristol.com/review/metropolis-organ-recital/84)


Welcome All Wonders - a Christmas Cantata - The Choir of The Queen's College, Oxford, with Owen Rees (Director), Olivia Clarke and Paul Manley (Organ), and Simon Desbrulais (Trumpet) (Signum Records)

“Welcome All Wonders is a Christmas cantata specially commissioned from the organist and composer David Bednall by the choir of The Queen's College, Oxford. The actual music isn't, in fact, overtly Christmassy, but that's not to say that it isn't an excellent disc: the singing is incredibly tight, in the manner to which it has become increasingly accustomed under its musical director, Owen Rees, and Bednall's writing is ingenious, embedded in a profound understanding of the workings of choir and organ - both as distinct entities and as a partnership. Although the music is often harmonically complicated, it still maintains a tonality and superficial simplicity that makes it extremely appealing for a multi-movement contemporary piece.” Caroline Gill, Gramophone, December 2013.


“A Christmas Cantata in 15 movements, with organ and trumpet, Bednall’s work makes a bright, immediate impression, the idiom accessible without being superficial.” (4 Stars) BBC Music Magazine, December 2013


“Modern masterpiece – The trend in Christmas music recordings this winter is away from traditional carols and towards newly written cantatas. First and best of these is 34-year-old organist David Bednall’s Welcome All Wonders, a thrilling sequence of 15 settings of diverse poems and liturgical texts for choir, organ and trumpet. It is performed on this Signum CD (SIGCD335) by the full, rich, men’s and women’s voices of Bednall’s alma mater, Queen’s College, Oxford. “The Slaughter of the Innocents” is the long heart of the work, at first sinister, then ghostly, consisting of poems by Longfellow, Prudentius and Christina Rossetti who will be relieved no longer only to be associated with “In the Bleak Midwinter” or “In the BMW”, in witty chorister-speak. The fact that is has a nickname is evidence of the over-familiarity of a small number of carols and hence the trend. Bednall also sets Milton, whose wise men are “wizards”, Crashaw (“Welcome all Wonders in one sight!/Eternity shut in a span!”), Pope, and others. This is a lesson learned from Britten, who selected often and carefully from wide reading. Music was once thought to have no purpose apart from dancing if it wasn’t backing a song, and composers should remember their Homeric origins as the servants of poetry. The vividness of Bednall’s writing reflects the texts, by which he is clearly moved. He has the courage, as Britten had, to be simple when necessary. The spectral women’s voices in “The Slaughter” do nothing more than sing a beautiful melody over eternal long notes in the bass. The piece is a modern masterpiece.” The Tablet, 21 – 28 December 2013


"Welcome all Wonders: A Christmas Cantata, by David Bednall, is a large-scale work for choir, organ and trumpet spanning 15 movements. It celebrates the Christmas story through an inspiring selection of poetry and liturgical texts, Performed by The Choir of The Queen’s College, Oxford, under the baton of Owen Rees, this CD comes highly recommended." The Northern Echo, 19th September 2013


“Performed here by the Choir of Queen’s College, Oxford, David Bednall’s Welcome All Wonders is a new Christmas Oratorio designed to tell the nativity story from Advent to Epiphany, using texts from Pope, Milton and Rossetti, as well as liturgical sources. Organ lends gravitas and the trumpet invokes nobility, allowing the choral arrangements space to tell the story without orchestral clutter: the two combine for a sombre “Prelude” which leads into the choral “Alleluia”, the single repeated word subjected to various vocal techniques over shifting metres. It’s all beautifully rendered, albeit a touch short on joy and long on darkness, reaching its peak in this respect with the nine-minute “Slaughter of the Innocents”.” The Independent, 21st December 2013


"The Queen's College, Oxford is renowned for its wide-ranging and imaginative repertory, ranging from Renaissance and Baroque works to new commissions. This first recording on Signum - under director Owen Rees - takes its title from the eponymous work by English composer David Bednall, commissioned and premiered by the choir in 2011. 'Welcome All Wonders: A Christmas Cantata' is a large-scale work for choir, organ and trumpet spanning 15 movements over an hour and a quarter, that celebrates the Christmas story through an imaginative selection and juxtaposition of poetry and liturgical texts. Your reviewer wears several hats, all of which he raises to applaud this piece. As a listener I thoroughly enjoyed it and am pleased to report that Mr Bednall continues to show his gift as a composer who understands melody and harmony, making this an easy listen without descending into easy listening. As a supporter of live music I would be happy to pay (or make a suggested donation) to hear this performed by any of my local choral societies. And as a member of a community choir I would love to try to perform this myself. I am confident that our leading soprano could cope although perhaps not as well as Olivia Clarke on this recording. However the piece does feature a trumpet, here played by Simon Desbruslais. 'Welcome All Wonders' is a vocal piece but the ornamentation supplied by the solo trumpet does add a great deal of interest and I feel that a live performance without a sufficiently skilled trumpeter would fall flat. That, however, is a challenge for another day. For now I shall enjoy this recording and recommend that any listeners with an interest in contemporary choral music seek it out at the earliest opportunity." Steven Whitehead, Cross Rhythms Website, November 2013, 9/10


‘A welcome wonder indeed – a Christmas disc for grown-ups!

This spirited and engaging work is a homage to English choral music of the 20th century by a gifted composer and organist in his mid-thirties. Billed as “a Christmas cantata” ‘Welcome All Wonders’ springs from the example of creating multi-sectioned sacred works by composers like Britten, Howells and Leighton, all of whom have influenced Bednall’s style. The 15-movement piece, running at 80 minutes, is scored for organ, choir and trumpet. In tracing the narrative from Advent to Epiphany, Bednall sets liturgical texts as well as some fine poetry by, amongst others, Pope, Milton, Longfellow and Christina Rosetti. In choosing words that deal with both the joys and sorrows of the Christmas story, there is enough musical light and shade to sustain listener interest.

Under the attentive direction of Owen Rees, the Queen’s College Choir makes the most of Bednall’s approachable yet interesting score. Singing with all the vocal acuity expected of an Oxbridge choir, they relish the musical changes that the composer’s eclectic yet decidedly English style brings, whether it be the dancing rhythms (think Leighton and Mathias), the lush harmonies (think Howells) or darker moods (think Britten). The festive final climax comes with the proclamation of the work’s title (taken from a poem by Richard Crashaw). This grown-up Christmas disc deserves a warm welcome.’ Limelight Magazine, December 2013 (Four Stars, Review of the Week)


"But tradition need not be honoured slavishly and it’s good to hear a different, if not quite revisionist, approach to the nativity in David Bednall’s notably tough-minded cantata Welcome All Wonders (Signum SIGCD 335), which restores the Slaughter of the Innocents to the centre of the drama, not its fringes." Choir and Organ, November/December 2013


"I’ve heard quite a lot of David Bednall’s choral music on CD. I think this is the fourth disc devoted to his music, two of which were discs of short pieces performed by Matthew Owens and his excellent Wells Cathedral Choir (review ~ review). Most impressive of all was his Requiem of 2007/08 (review). In addition, individual short pieces by him have cropped up on a number of mixed recital programmes by various choirs; it’s clear that Bednall is making quite a name for himself.
He is an alumnus of The Queen’s College and a past organ scholar there in the late 1990s so it was highly appropriate that the college should commission him to write this new work The choir there gave the first performance of it in November 2011, making this recording shortly thereafter. The piece, which comprises fifteen movements, is scored for SATB choir, organ and solo trumpet - here the superb Simon Desbruslais.
In his very useful booklet note David Bednall explains that whilst he covers the main episodes in the Christmas story between Advent and the Epiphany there is no narrative per se on the grounds that the essential story is so well known. Indeed, not only is there no Gospel narrative but there is only one Biblical text in the entire score, the great text from St. John’s Gospel, ‘In the beginning was the Word’; this is set at the start of the last movement. So the texts principally comment and reflect on the Christmas story. Bednall has not shrunk from choosing texts that illustrate what might be termed the darker side of Christmas - the massacre of the Holy Innocents, the foreshadowing of Christ’s Passion and Death; this is no bland, saccharine Christmas piece and I wholeheartedly applaud that. When reviewing an earlier Bednall disc from the Wells Cathedral choir I quoted something which the composer had written that particularly caught my eye. Speaking of how important to him are the words he sets he said that his aim is “to try to deliver an emotional charge in order to challenge the listener to think afresh about the words being sung.” He’s held true to that tenet in much of his work that I’ve heard in the last few years and it’s well in evidence here too.
The chosen texts range quite widely; the sources include Alexander Pope, Isaac Watts, Longfellow, Milton and Christina Rossetti as well as a couple of Magnificat antiphons from the Christmas season and some old Latin hymns. If this seems a disparate selection all I can say is that it has been woven into a satisfying whole. The title of the work comes from some lines by Richard Crawshaw (1612-1649) which are set in the last movement.
As for the music, David Bednall says that he wanted to make the music “emotive and immediate” and I’d say he’s succeeded. He mentions Howells as a composer for whose music he has a great love and that’s apparent from time to time in this score. The benign influence of several other English composers is evident too but it would be folly to listen to the piece thinking ‘that reminds me of so-and-so’ for Bednall is very much his own man. What I will say is that one can hear in this score the work of someone who has spent much of his life steeped in the world of English composers and, especially, in the music of the English church. He has clearly absorbed much of that through his musical pores. That said, one also notes an occasional Gallic tinge, especially in the organ part: one might expect that of someone whose organ teachers have included Naji Hakim and David Briggs.
Bednall says that most of the movements can be performed separately, for services, perhaps, or smaller scale concerts. I can see several of them readily having an independent life. In my view the prime candidate is the thirteenth movement, ‘But peaceful was the night’. This is a setting for unaccompanied choir of three stanzas from Milton’s Ode on the morning of Christ’s Nativity. Bednall comments that it is “in some ways the emotional heart of the work.” It’s a very beautiful composition which has a beguiling soprano melody set, in the first two stanzas, over warm choral harmonies. In the final stanza this melody really comes into its own as it’s heard while the rest of the choir cosset it with a hushed wordless cushion of harmonies. Beautifully sung by the Queen’s College choir, this is a winning little gem which I can see becoming an established part of the Christmas repertoire of many choirs: I hope so.
I’ve singled out that movement but there are several other very successful sections. The eighth movement, ‘I saw a stable’ is another charmer for unaccompanied choir. The music is very simple and highly effective. Also effective, though very different in character, is ‘Oh! little blade of grass’, the music of which Bednall describes as “dense and tortured”. It seems to me to take further the sort of complex harmonic language that Howells was using in his last years. ‘Ye heavens! from high the dewy nectar pour’ is the second of two settings of lines by Alexander Pope. This, Bednall says, “presents a utopian vision of peace”. It’s a very tranquil piece which is beautifully imagined for voices accompanied by a gentle, radiant organ part.
Not all is beauty, however. I said that Bednall does not shy away from the darker side of the Christmas story. His telling of the massacre of the Holy Innocents is highly imaginative. First he enlists Longfellow to depict Herod and his men in dramatic and unsettling music - Herod’s words are sung by a solo bass and the solo is well taken here. The really imaginative part of the setting comes later, however; unison female voices sing verses by Christina Rossetti over a quiet drone in the male voices. The ladies’ music is a poignant, deliberately stark monody - only in the third of the four stanzas does the line becomes two-part - and after each verse the trumpet delivers an equally stark comment. It’s desolate and affecting stuff.
Rightly, though, the score contains a good deal of music that conveys the joy of Christmas. Indeed, the very first choral movement, after an instrumental introduction, is a predominantly lively and extrovert a cappella piece setting just one word: ‘Alleluia’. There’s some buoyant, rhythmically vital music, again for unaccompanied choir, in the eleventh movement, ‘Tribus miraculis ornatum’, which is the Magnificat antiphon for the Feast of the Epiphany. And the final movement, ‘In the beginning’, ends the work on a joyous, indeed ecstatic note. Here the celebration - and the volume - builds incrementally in a most exciting fashion, the organ increasingly majestic, until on the very last chord the sopranos and the trumpet climb to a top C, ensuring that Welcome all Wonders ends in a mood of unqualified jubilation.
Welcome all Wonders is an inventive, resourceful and impressive piece. The choral writing is assured and imaginative. The trumpet part adds colour and brilliance to many of the sections. Until the last movement the organ part is more restrained than I’d expected but it’s still a significant contributor to the score and, as one would expect from a skilled organist-composer, it’s an imaginative part.
The performance is excellent. The choir of Queen’s College numbers 32 singers (11/7/6/8). They sing the work splendidly and with great assurance and commitment. The sound is fresh and clear, the choir achieving a satisfying blend and very good diction. There are several opportunities for choir members to sing solos and all do very well. The only slight reservation - and it is a small one - is an occasional lack of weight in the male voices, unsurprising, perhaps, in an undergraduate ensemble. However, the singers have clearly been trained very well by Owen Rees and I’m sure David Bednall was delighted by their advocacy. I don’t know how the organ duties were shared out between the two organists, presumably the college’s Organ Scholars, but the organ accompaniments are clearly in good hands - and feet. As for the important trumpet part, it’s played brilliantly by Simon Desbruslais. His tone is bright, silvery and exciting to hear; for much of the time he’s required to play strongly but he’s equally capable of silky soft tone and on those occasions the trumpet sound falls very pleasingly on the ear. The sessions took place in Keble College Chapel, no doubt on account of the organ there. The production was in the very safe hands of Adrian Peacock and David Hinitt so it’s almost a given that the recording would be admirable … and it is.
Welcome all Wonders is an original and very rewarding addition to the Christmas choral repertoire."
John Quinn, MusicWeb International, November 2013

Magna voce cane et magno cum jubilo - Mighty Voce - Luke Bond at the Organ of Truro Cathedral (Regent Records)

‘David Bednall’s Magna voce cane et magno cum jubilo is rhythmically complex, as vital as Leighton, but without his sparseness. Within a full and generous texture, there’s a strong thematic integrity in which the augmented fourth is a pervading, somewhat darkening presence, enlivened by wild tuba exclamations. There’s a clear sense of Howells in assertive, agitated mode, yet Bednall has one foot very firmly in the Parisian organ loft too, with a harmonic flair that owes something to the French master organists of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. [Luke] Bond deftly throws the organ’s considerable weight around to create a brilliant showstopper.’ International Record Review, December 2013.


Psalm 150 O praise God in his holiness - Published by Faber Music

“David Bednall’s setting of Psalm 150, O praise God in his holiness, is an accomplished and vibrant account of the familiar text, premièred at the Jean Langlais Festival in 2006. The antiphonal writing surely springs not only from the circumstance of the first performance but also from the rich heritage of the composer’s influences, both French and British. Tonally centred, the music is never confusingly dissonant, the occasional harmonic complexity throwing the vital rhythmic patterns into relief in the exuberant outer sections and lending an ethereal beauty to the central verses. The vocal writing is idiomatic and the lines are rarely challenging. On first sight the organ part looks demanding, but the composer writes superbly for the instrument. As one would expect from Faber, the print quality is superb... Bednall’s music is becoming deservedly familiar and this work will reward any moderately ambitious choir.”  Organists’ Review, August 2011

Flame Celestial - Sacred Choral Music Volume II - Wells Cathedral Choir with Matthew Owens (Director) and Jonathan Vaughn (Organ) (Regent Records)

“England’s trove of first-rate choirs is exceeded only by its collection of truly gifted living choral composers. Many are of younger generations, and hardly an issue of ARG goes by without a review or two covering fresh English compositional voices that are worth your attention. This issue’s discovery is David Bednall (b 1979), who is fast coming to the fore as not only a composer, but an exceptional organist and improviser. His previous discs have garnered considerable critical acclaim – though not from us: Mr Greenfield’s lukewarm review of Bednall’s Requiem (M/J 2010) appears to be the only major release of his choral music we’ve covered. There’s also a release devoted partly to his organ improvisations, for which he is mostly praised (J/A 2005 under Archer). While I haven’t heard either of those, I found the works here—all first recordings – ingenious, inspiring, and very appealing – even exciting.

As Bednall tells us in his own lucid program notes, color and texture—in a mostly tonal (or at least poly-tonal) context—are his primary compositional watchwords. Among a flock of mostly English and French composers, he singles out Herbert Howells as his primary influence, particularly admiring his “ability to sound fresh in each new work whilst maintaining a strong compositional identity”. And from what I’ve heard here, I can enthusiastically confirm said qualities, especially the latter. Like Howells’s, Bednall’s music reveals a signature harmonic stamp, plus infinitely varied stylistic and structural aspects that make it very much his own. Within a diatonic framework, he spices his often very rich sounding schemes with swarms of (as my own esteemed choirmaster puts it) deliciously “crunchy” dissonances and tone-clusters that beguile (and sometimes assault) the ear while lending considerable punch to the sacred sentiments at hand. His prowess as an organist shows in his often thrilling writing for the instrument.

The primary works heard here are his most impressive organ-supported St Paul Mass plus his two memorable, but very different sets of evening canticles (both from The Wells Service). The composer describes the mass as “conceived on a grand scale, taking some of its inspiration from the French Messe Solennelle”. Said grand scale is partly his natural response to the vast edifice of St Paul’s Cathedral, whence the commission. He points out that while the edifice’s notorious “cavernous echo” limits possibilities for compositional clarity, it also promotes the creation of “vast walls of sound” and “moments hanging in space”.

And such walls of sound are exactly what we get in much of this often robust and insistent music. In the Kyrie, the fairly quiet opening exchanges between the choral sections are followed by a two-chord motif that’s heard intermittently through the work. From there, the music builds into massive, triple-forte outcries of ardent supplication. Here and elsewhere, potent organ passages alternate with vocal outcries in trade-offs of huge and varied blocks of granitic sound. Softer and more ethereal interludes supply the contrasting “hanging in space” effects. The Gloria begins in like manner, with heavier episodes giving way to quieter, chant-like interludes where solo and choral passages are juxtaposed in call-andresponse fashion, leading into another buildup to a powerful climax.

Some of my favorite moments come in the comparatively brief Sanctus (there’s no Credo), where quiet beginnings quickly build into another massive, momentarily chaotic paean of praise where the heavenly hosts seem to come at the listener from every corner of the cosmos, rather than from a more orderly single seraphic choir. The Benedictus (as well as the final Agnus Dei) is generally more subdued. Soft solo voices lead into gently expanding choral passages and thence into a sweetly radiant final episode. The Agnus Dei begins with a dark and unsettled organ progression that sets up grating contrasts when the choir enters. Some of the work’s most magical moments come near the end when treble and tenor soloists take turns floating over the choir’s subtly shifting canonic lines. I can only imagine what this music sounded like at St Paul’s. This marvellous mass alone is well worth the price of the disc.

And there’s much more—though I will spare you detailed analysis, since (I hope) I’ve already given you an adequate idea of how Bednall’s music works. But I will tell you that the four evening canticles of The Wells Service (the four morning canticles are found in Volume 1 of Regent’s Bednall series) are rather unusual. The first set, rather than setting the commonly used Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis texts, employs the seldom-used Cantate Domino (Sing to the Lord) and Deus Misereatur (God be merciful to us) texts that Anglican liturgy also allows at Evensong. The remaining two items revert to the classic “mag-and nunc” texts, but Bednall chose to offer them in a cappella settings—something I’ve never encountered before for these texts. It seemed strange at first, but once I got into the music, I found that I didn’t miss the organ at all: the unaccompanied settings hold their own nicely without it. There are six remaining shorter, stand-alone works as well—each one a rare treat.

The sonorous and dependable Wells Cathedral Choir outdoes itself here, in well-tailored, technically assured, and spiritually potent readings. The sound of the choir’s lay clerks (the lower voices)—both collectively and from the excellent soloists—at first seemed stentorian in places, but then Bednall’s music often calls for the kind of full-throated sound that you don’t regularly hear from a cathedral choir. Regent sees to crystalline sound and excellent organ-choral balances, as well as a solid booklet.

The moment I heard this remarkable release, I went online and ordered Volume 1 of the series (Regent 247)—this is a composer whose work I wish to follow. Any serious fan of contemporary English choral music should respond enthusiastically to Bednall’s creations. But, a note of caution to choirmasters on the prowl for new material: some of this music (especially the mass) is a bit beyond the capabilities of your average church choir. But don’t let that stop you from getting to know one of the most promising new voices to emerge in England over the past decade.” American Record Guide, May/June 2011


“I have voiced my admiration for the music of David Bednall (b1979) more than once and I make no apologies for waxing enthusiastic about it again, for there’s so much on this latest disc to relish and enjoy. It is tempting to play spot-the-influence (Messiaen and Duruflé abound, while great chunks of Langlais pop their heads around the pillars from time to time), and certainly Bednall suffers from what Vaughan Williams identified in himself as “a bad attack of French fever”, but he doesn’t totally ignore his English heritage; there is Gustav Holst as the Missa Sancti Pauli floats away into the ether and even more Herbert Howells in the intensely lovely O Jesu, victim blest (although its climax comes straight out of Duruflé’s Requiem). But the cumulative effect of all these influences is to create a musical language which is at once both reassuringly familiar and strikingly distinctive.

Bednall has again entrusted his music to the Wells Cathedral Choir under Matthew Owens and they have not only done him and themselves proud, they have reinforced their current position as one of the UK’s leading cathedral choirs; an absolutely magical performance of the Benedictus from the Mass sets the seal on their excellence. Composed, as the name suggests, for St Paul’s Cathedral in London, the Missa Sancti Pauli dates from 2007 and while it is the largest single work here, the four canticles from The Wells Service added to the four morning ones recorded on a previous disc (5/07) make up what Bednall himself suggests in his impressively coherent booklet-notes as “a possibly unique” setting of all eight canticles for a single foundation. His intense knowledge of the choir, the organ and, perhaps most tellingly, the Cathedral’s acoustic (gloriously captured in this warmly atmospheric recording) infuse every bar, and the choirs responds with both affection and towering authority.” Marc Rochester, Gramophone, September 2010 (Gramophone Recommendation)


“Bednall cites Pierre Cochereau among more familiar influences, and this second volume of works by the 31-year-old Wells Cathedral assistant organist (sic) shows a clear familiarity with the Frenchman’s transcribed improvisations. The language is freely tonal, unembellished and robustly functional, though Psalm 150 has a virtuosic organ part, but already markedly individual. What makes the selection of pieces particularly interesting is that in addition to sections of the Wells Service and a Missa Sancti Pauli for St Paul’s, it combines liturgy with highly personal expression – as in Everyone Sang (Sassoon) for the wedding of friends – while in the 9/11 Behold, O God our defender it goes back to the very beginning of Bednall’s emergence as a mature composer.” (4 stars) Brian Morton, Choir and Organ Magazine, September 2010


“Regent Records are doing David Bednall proud. Hard on the heels of the recording of his very fine Requiem, they have issued this new CD, which is the second volume of his choral music. Volume One, which I have not yet heard, was entitled Hail, gladdening light (REGCD247). That disc, which was also made by Matthew Owens and the Wells Cathedral Choir, included the four morning canticles from Bednall’s Wells Service; the four companion canticles for Evensong form part of the present programme.

The ‘Magnificat’ and ‘Nunc dimittis’ are familiar pillars of the service of Evensong. It’s less common to hear settings of ‘Cantate Domino’ or ‘Deus misereatur’. One interesting feature of Bednall’s settings is that the latter two settings include an organ accompaniment while the ‘Mag’ and ‘Nunc’ are for unaccompanied choir. ‘Cantate Domino’ is set mainly in a fast tempo. The music is vigorous and strongly rhythmic and the independent organ part is as exciting as the vocal writing. Part way through comes a substantial bass solo... In fact, the solo passages carry a considerable amount of the musical argument in this latter piece. Both canticles have the same, exuberant music for the doxology. The unaccompanied ‘Mag’ features some rich-textured choral writing. The writing for choir is confident and assertive and, frankly, one doesn’t regret the lack of an organ part; the choral music is strong enough not to need any support. The ‘Nunc dimittis’ is a fine, thoughtful piece. Unlike their companions, these two canticles have different doxologies; the one provided for the ‘Nunc’ is gentle, even subdued.

The biggest work on the disc is the Missa Sancti Pauli, which was written with the substantial acoustics – and the substantial organ – of London’s St. Paul’s Cathedral expressly in mind. In his booklet note the composer writes that the music was conceived on a grand scale – which is certainly true – and that it takes some of its inspiration from the French Messe Solennelle. At various times Bednall has been a pupil of two distinguished organists, Naji Hakim and David Briggs. Having heard Briggs play many times on the organ of Gloucester Cathedral and having heard Hakim on disc and radio a few times I think their influence is apparent in this work, not least in some of the massive organ climaxes and the use on several occasions of full-throated, reed-dominated registrations.

The Mass is a very ambitious and often a dramatic work, which makes considerable demands, I’m sure, on the choir and on the organist, though in this performance it sounds as if all these demands are more than satisfied. The ‘Kyrie’ is intense and supplicatory and Bednall is not afraid to screw up the tension, especially during the ‘Christe eleison’. In this performance the ‘Gloria’ follows attacca. The opening music is fiercely exuberant – the organ writing is often on a massive scale. The more subdued, slower music that Bednall provides at ‘Domine fili unigenite’ offers much-needed contrast but soon the pace picks up again. Towards the end the organ part put me in mind of Messiaen at his most magisterial. The ‘Amen’ is simply vast.

The ambitious writing continues in the ‘Sanctus’, even though the movement is quite short – less than three minutes in duration. In his notes Bednall refers to “a great wall of infinite praise.” It’s followed by a beautiful setting of the ‘Benedictus’, which the composer describes as the emotional heart of the work. Of particular note here is the highly effective writing for two solo sopranos over a hushed organ accompaniment. The two soloists, Sophie Gallagher and Follasade-Nelleke Ladipo, sing with distinction, their voices combining delightfully. The ‘Agnus Dei’ gets off to a brooding start. Though the music isn’t as overtly dramatic as that which we heard in the ‘Kyrie’ it’s still very intense. Bednall achieves a soft, luminous end to the work in which soprano and tenor solos soar gently over the rest of the ensemble.

This Mass setting is undeniably impressive. I do wonder, however, if the demands made on the musicians, not least the organist, are so considerable as to put it beyond the range of at least some choral establishments. Also, perhaps the gestures are so dramatic at times as to inhibit its frequent liturgical use. However, even if that happens I’m sure the setting works just as well in a concert context and this extremely fine recording will bring it to a wider audience.

The shorter pieces are all well done and, like everything else on this disc, they are receiving their first recordings. I wondered about that statement in the case of O come let us sing, since that also appears on the recent disc of Bednall’s Requiem. However, on that disc we hear the version for upper voices whereas this present disc offers the four-part setting. Also, if one was being pedantic, the sessions for this Wells CD took place first by a few weeks! Behold, O God our defender was composed on 12 September 2001, the day after, and as a direct response to, the terrorist atrocities in the USA. The setting, for unaccompanied choir, takes words from Psalm 84. For much of the time the choir sings in slow, grave eight- part harmony. Particularly effective are the quietly luminous harmonies for the last line: “O Lord of Hosts, blessed is the man that trusteth in thee.” This piece was clearly an instinctive response to the dreadful events of the previous day – and an eloquent response at that. I wonder if Bednall was inspired, in choosing his text, by the knowledge that Herbert Howells, an acknowledged key influence on his own music, had written a piece with the same title and using some of the same words?

The souls of the righteous is also for unaccompanied choir and here again we can appreciate Bednall’s excellent ear for choral textures. Also to be admired, once more, is his sensitivity to words; this piece is an eloquent response to moving words from the Book of Wisdom. It’s a lovely work and the best is reserved for the end when a radiant soprano solo line – the excellent Sophie Gallagher again – is heard over the hushed choir. By contrast, Everyone Sang, with which the disc opens, is an extrovert piece, as befits a composition for a wedding. This anthem features some truly arresting choral writing and achieves a huge, ecstatic climax on the words “Everyone’s voice was suddenly lifted.” The piece must have made a strong impression when first performed at a wedding in Wells Cathedral and it impresses now when recorded in the same building.

I was impressed with my first exposure to David Bednall’s music on disc and this latest CD confirms that excellent impression. It seems to me that he has an instinctive empathy with choirs and, on the evidence I’ve heard to date, his writing for them is assured and effective. A fine organist in his own right, he writes as effectively as one might expect for his own instrument. His music is superbly served by Matthew Owens and his excellent choir while the contributions of Jonathan Vaughn at the Wells organ are thrilling one moment and sensitive the next. This disc is a fine successor to Regent’s previous issues of David Bednall’s music.”
John Quinn, Music Web International, June 2010


"Bednall is a composer in a rather old-fashioned sense, in that he knows the people who want his music and writes it with them in mind—the kind of luxury that Haydn enjoyed. So his Everyone Sang (2007), the piece that opens the newest Regent CD of his music, owes its unbridled optimism to the fact that it was written for the wedding of two close friends, and its exuberance to the presence of a number of opera singers in the congregation. Here’s a piece that could become a popular favorite, even though it requires good lungs of its performers.

The Wells Service on this disc isn’t simply a new recording of the work on the 2006 CD; instead, it is a 2008 setting of four evening canticles, the earlier score setting four morning canticles. Bednall comments that “This setting of all eight canticles by a single composer for one foundation is possibly unique, and the settings make some use of shared material and leitmotifs to add an even greater sense of unity.” What Bednall couldn’t do, of course, was prevent his music language developing, for there’s a far freer use of dissonance in the new piece; indeed, he’s not beyond dropping in the odd cluster to generate a harmonic frisson here and there. That meatiness of texture continues into the Missa Sancti Pauli, which marries Bednall’s French and British traditions more effectively than anything else on these three discs—it’s clear why he calls it a mission statement. It’s not simply a question of refinements in his technique, either: There’s an understated ecstasy in the work that points to an expanding emotional armory—although the earliest piece here, Behold, O God Our Defender, written on September 12, 2001, as a reaction to the events of the day before, reveals the presence of ecstatic dissonance in his language even at that early stage. His setting of Psalm 150 was written for the Jean Langlais Festival in 2006 and the bursts of organ-writing that are played off antiphonally against choral statements could almost have come from that pen, or Jean Guillou’s, or Gaston Litaize’s. This is genuine European integration—not like the nonsense that emerges from the E.U. headquarters!”  Martin Anderson, Fanfare Magazine, July 2010


 “In the May/June issue, I reviewed works for treble choir by David Bednall (b.1979); this month brings two selections of pieces for mixed voices with a different ensemble and director. The performances are exemplary with the superb Wells Choir and internal soloists. The first disc uses Girl Choristers only, the second Boy and Girl Choristers. Here and there the diction might be improved, but full texts are provided, and the performances are still praiseworthy. Most of the programmes consist of standard texts in new settings. The two exceptions are on the second disc (Flame Celestial); the opening work, Everyone Sang with the words by Siegfried Sassoon and O Jesu, Victim Blest to a text of The Rev’d James Baden-Powell. The former is a striking ten-line poem with images of birds bursting into flight accompanied by song, then of wordless singing as the sun sets. It is not a liturgical work, but one that makes a fine concert opener. The latter, composed for Malcolm Archer and Wells in 2002, sets a poem from 1900 – much better in literary quality than most hymn texts of that period! – in an enchanting variety of tonal colours.

Between the two discs we hear complete The Wells Service, with all eight of the canticles specified for the daily offices in The Book of Common Prayer 1662; this includes the “alternative canticles” – Benedicite, Omnia Opera; Benedictus; Cantate Domino; and Deus Miseratur – along with the “ordinary” – Te Deum Laudamus; Jubilate; Magnificat; and Nunc dimittis. The liner suggests that “the setting of all eight canticles by a single composer for one foundation [Wells] is possibly unique, and the settings make use of some shared material and leitmotifs to add an even greater sense of unity.” The Te Deum and Jubilate, in particular, are elegantly festive, and the other six are winning settings.

The major work on the second programme (Flame Celestial) is the Missa Sancti Pauli, commissioned by St Paul’s Cathedral, London, and first performed there in May 2007. The writing clearly reflects the indendting setting – “cavernous echo” and “moments left hanging in space” – but the Wells’ acoustic also serves it admirably. The influence of the grand French Messe solennelle is in evidence, but the idiom is uniquely Bednall’s. The Kyrie begins with gently plaintive please for mercy; as the movement progresses, the pleas become highly urgent. The Gloria opens with an intense outburst and a dissonant organ comment, then subsides in volume for “et in terra pax” before gathering force for “laudamus te.” Bednall’s writing continues to reflect the text, leading to a triumphant “cum Sancto Spiritu.” There is no Credo. The Sanctus marshals high praise, and the Benedictus invokes soft and mystical tones – this is the Lord coming into the heart rather than entering into Jerusalem. The use of treble voices in the Agnus Dei is slightly reminiscent of Kodály, but highly effective.

The Souls of the Righteous (Wisdom 3:1-3) is more mystical in tone than the familiar setting by T.Tertius Noble, though building to a rich climax in the middle. Three shorter Psalm settings (84:9-13, 95:1-2, and 150) complete this engaging programme. The liners include programme notes, complete texts, and biographies. Gary Cole’s conscientious engineering is evident, as always, in the reproduction.” The Journal of the Association of Anglican Musicians, September 2010 (Includes review of Hail, gladdening light)


‘Although his musical language is deeply indebted to Howells, David Bednall speaks with an individual voice that is really worth hearing. Every note demonstrates a composer who understands ‘from the inside’ how to write for choirs and for the organ, and how to exploit cathedral acoustics. The wonderful pieces on this disc are Everyone Sang; The Wells Service (settings of the alternative canticles at evensong: the Cantate Domino and Deus misereatur); Behold, O God our Defender; The souls of the righteous; Missa Sancti Pauli; O Jesu, victim blest; O come let us sing; The Wells Service (Magnificat and Nunc dimittis) and Psalm 150. The harmonies, counterpoint, melodies, textures and colours are fabulous – and brilliantly performed by the Wells team. Glorious!.’ Christopher Maxim, Church Music Quarterly, September 2012 (Full star review)

Requiem and other choral works - The Chamber Choir of St Mary's Calne with Philip Dukes (Viola) and Edward Whiting (Director) (Regent Records)

"With each new exposure to the music of 30-year old organist and composer David Bednall, I become ever more impressed with both the quality of his writing and its originality. Here, with the evocative passage for viola and organ which opens his Requiem we have something quite special. It helps, of course, that accompanying the richly expressive playing of Philip Dukes we have the composer himself at the organ, and with the entry of the impeccably poised Chamber Choir from St Mary’s School, Calne in Wiltshire, we are clearly hearing performers who are deeply committed to a work which they themselves premiered in 2008. But the music stretches far beyond the commitment of these superb performers and makes a significant new contribution to the already fertile genre of Latin Requiems composed by English composers. Echoes of the Duruflé may resound a little too strongly for comfort in the “Domine Jesu Christe” but otherwise the work shows considerable distinction.

Edward Whiting has achieved a remarkable sound from his choir of 43 girls aged 14-18, their unison singing moulded to perfection and the lovely nuances of tone colour and phrase-shaping delicately and subtly managed. Once or twice the sound may take on a slightly bland quality but this is invariably dissipated by Bednall’s resourceful organ support, and my guess is that once this work passes on to other performers and away from the composer’s own immediate influence it won’t be long before he orchestrates this. I can’t imagine many other organists achieving the same compelling quasi-orchestral effects as he does on the Marlborough College Chapel organ used in this recording.

As a new addition to the Requiem repertoire and as a performance in its own right, this disc is a resounding success and the addition of three unaccompanied motets only adds to the very high regard with which which I now hold both the composer and choir. By any standards this is an impressive acheivement." Mark Rochester, Gramophone, May 2010


“This is my Discovery of the Year. I described this 55-minute Requiem by the young British composer, David Bednall as “one of the most beautiful, imaginative and moving pieces of modern choral music that I have heard for quite some time.” I haven’t changed my mind. It’s beautifully performed by the Chamber Choir of St, Mary’s School, Calne. Bednall’s imaginative use of a solo viola works really well and he himself plays the organ part magnificently. This is a very significant addition to the choral repertoire and its first recording is a notable event.” John Quinn, Music Web International Recordings of the Year 2010


You might be forgiven for thinking that St Mary’s Calne is a church. It is in fact a Girls’ Public School in Wiltshire. Its celebrated Chamber Choir is directed by Edward Whiting, a former organ scholar of The Queen’s College, Oxford. David Bednall, also a former Queen’s College Organ Scholar, is now Sub Organist of Bristol Cathedral, a post he combines with PhD research studies, organ recitals and composition. He is already being hailed as an exciting voice in choral writing and this CD clearly justifies his celebrity. His renowned gifts as an improviser (he was a pupil of Naji Hakim and David Briggs) also add freshness and spontaneity to his compositions.

You can’t mention the word Requiem in church music circles without immediately thinking of Fauré and Duruflé, though not necessarily in that order! It must be said that here Duruflé is never far away, but that does not mean that this is mere plagiarism. Some of the master’s textures and effects are here, and the melismatic ‘plainsong’ lines are to be found here and there, but there is an individuality and originality present also.

I have a rule when reviewing CDs that I listen before I look; that is to say, I listen to the CD in its entirety before I read any of the information in the booklet. Consequently I heard a fantastic cello opening the Requiem; such richness and depth of tone could not come from another stringed instrument. Imagine my shock then when I later discovered that the source of this ecstatic sound was a viola! I now know that Philip Dukes is responsible for this. The Times calls him 'Great Britain's most out-standing viola player'. I didn't know violas were capable of the sounds that Philip can extract. This alone is reason to purchase the CD.

Another reason would be the glorious organ in Marlborough College Chapel played with great aplomb by David Bednall.

The last reason would be the superb 40-strong choir whose musicianship, tuning and diction are exceptional. 

The opening prelude is a plaintive viola solo with organ accompaniment, perhaps redolent of Vaughan Williams. The choir enters at Introït and from there we are carried on a journey of inspired melody and sumptuous harmony, best described perhaps as post-Romantic French and English. The electric Libera me section has Duruflé looking over David’s shoulder with all those consecutive 3rds. The clangour subsides with the return of the soulful viola before Miriam Thiede’s Hostias solo. The viola closes with the choir singing ‘quam olim Abrahae’. The concise Sanctus builds quickly to a climax on top B flat from the 1st sopranos, the ensuing Benedictus providing a peaceful cadence to what is essentially one movement. Rebecca Rothwell is fearless in the chromatic Pie Jesu where she battles (successfully) against a rich organ accompaniment. The viola and organ introduce and accompany Lux aeterna. Communion – Interlude, for viola and organ, has an improvisatory feel and, at over 7 minutes’ duration, is one of the longest movements. The Libera me has all the requisite menace; with its marching pedal David creates unearthly effects with organ and viola (tremolo) for the section ‘tremens factus sunt ego et timeo’. Dies irae has tremendous rhythmic drive with organ, choir and viola all vying for supremacy – the organ eventually wins – out of which comes a return to a heart-felt plea: Libera me. The last movement, In paradisum, is exquisitely beautiful, combing all the forces in a quiet statement of hope.

Three short works follow: O come let us sing, which sets the first 2 verses of the Venite (Psalm 95), a haunting Salvator mundi, and a gloriously energetic Let all the world.

This is a remarkable achievement on all fronts and I commend it most warmly. David Bednall is certainly a name to look out for. My congratulations on significant and accessible contributions to the repertoire." Andrew Fletcher, Organists’ Review, May 2010


"David Bednall’s  atmospheric Requiem is sung here by the schoolgirl choir for whom it was originally composed. Highly reminiscent of Howells’s and Duruflé’s requiems, with its musical evocations of heavenly light, it also sounds captivatingly individual and contemporary. The use of a solo viola, played with beseeching warmth by Dukes, is particularly effective. While one has every right to be dubious of a school choir, the girls’ performances go far beyond  the expected standard for a non-specialist music school. It’s beautiful singing, with lovely tone and technique particularly in the upper registers. The soloists are strong." CG. Classic FM Magazine, May, 2010


“This Requiem by the young English composer David Bednall is structurally modelled on those of Fauré and Duruflé, with the addition of two movements featuring solo viola. In idiom it is much closer to Duruflé, for although Bednall doesn’t directly quote plainsong he acknowledges it is ‘undoubtedly an influence’, and the shape of the melodic writing strongly recalls the use Duruflé made of plainsong in his own masterly setting.

The Chamber Choir (all-girl) of St Mary’s Calne, for whom Bednall’s Requiem was written, phrase the mainly unison opening sections with expert fluidity, and a mature understanding of how plainsong influences the music’s rhythmic movement. There are fine soloists too, Miriam Theide in the ‘Domine Jesu Christe’, and Rebecca Rothwell in a ‘Pie Jesu’ that stretches into unsettlingly chromatic territory.

Though Bednall argues that the viola has an ‘important part’ in the Requiem, it’s unclear that it’s organically indispensable, and I wonder if this fine, tuneful work’s potential audience might not be considerably expanded by preparation of an alternative performing edition with viola omitted. Much as the girls’ voices excel in this recording, I’d like to see and SATB version made available, for similar reasons." (4 stars) Terry Blain, BBC Music Magazine, June 2010


“I remember hearing David Bednall play the organ on occasions when he was Organ Scholar at Gloucester Cathedral (2000-2002) but I don’t recall hearing any of his music during that time. He subsequently worked at Wells Cathedral (2002-2007) before taking up his present post as Sub Organist at Bristol Cathedral. So it will  be seen that he’s well steeped in the English Cathedral tradition. It’s relevant to know that in connection with the music on this CD. So too is it important to know that his distinguished organ teachers have included David Briggs and Naji Hakim, both of who must have played a role in imparting to him the influence of French organ music. The last relevant connection is with The Queen’s College, Oxford, where he was Organ Scholar immediately before coming to Gloucester. There he met Edward Whiting, the current Director of Music at St. Mary’s School, Calne, who was also an Organ Scholar at the college.

It was Whiting who suggested to Bednall that he might write a  Requiem for the St Mary’s choir and what began as a Missa Brevis in 2007 had been expanded by the following year into a twelve movement Requiem, lasting some fifty-five minutes.

I’m not going to beat about the bush. David Bednall’s Requiem is, in my view, one of the most beautiful, imaginative and moving pieces of modern choral music that I have heard for quite some time. Had I read the composer’s very good notes before listening for the first time I would probably have been prejudiced in the work’s favour from the outset for he tells us that two works that he greatly admires are Duruflé’s Requiem and Hymnus Paradisi by Howells. Both of these lovely, luminous works are pieces that I admire and love greatly and it’s evident that Bednall has been inspired in a wholly beneficial way by these two masterpieces. Yet his Requiem is far from a pastiche of either. He’s his own man and the new work is shot through with originality.

One stroke of genius is the incorporation of a substantial part for solo viola, here superbly played by Philip Dukes. The viola and organ have two purely instrumental movements – the first and the tenth. Elsewhere, the viola, though it doesn’t feature in every movement, adds a wonderful additional timbre to the musical textures. The instrument’s husky, sensuous and often passionate sound contrasts tellingly with the chaste purity of the girls’ voices. Listeners may sometimes be reminded, especially in the opening Prelude, of the sound world of Flos Campi by Vaughan Williams.

I’m not sure if Bednall had Flos Campi in mind at all when conceiving his own work but as one listens to the Requiem one is conscious that this is a composition by someone who has an expert knowledge of French music – and not just the Duruflé Requiem – of the English choral tradition, and of plainsong.

Besides the presence of the viola the other signal feature of this work is the scoring for upper voices only. Quite a lot of the choral writing is in unison. So far as I could tell without a score the choir goes into no more than two parts except, perhaps, for an excursion into three parts in the ‘Agnus Dei’. If that sounds dull or restricted please rest assured it’s not. Bednall writes some beautiful melodic material for his singers – long, expressive lines are a speciality – and when the writing divides into parts the harmonies are invariably beguiling.

No praise could be too high for the performance of the St Mary’s choir. The choir comprises forty-eight singers, aged between 14 and 18. They sing with the most beautiful, clear and fresh tone. Tuning, diction and blend are all flawless and their commitment to the music is palpable. There are two movements that feature soloists. In the first of these, ‘Domine Jesu Christe’, Miriam Thiede sings very well indeed. She has a warm voice with a nice mezzo tint and I enjoyed her performance very much. Bednall follows Duruflé and, of course, Fauré in giving the ‘Pie Jesu’ to a solo voice, here the excellent Rebecca Rothwell. She has a challenging solo, for unlike the aforementioned French masters, Bednall, though he begins the movement in tranquillity, develops it to a passionate central climax , which is most exacting, especially for a young singer. Miss Rothwell is undaunted and delivers the climax with great assurance before managing the wind-down to the movement’s pacific conclusion very well indeed.

As you might expect, given that the composer is an expert organist, the Requiem features an extremely important organ part. Playing on the recently restored organ in Marlborough College Chapel, David Bednall is superbly inventive in his registrations, often providing wonderfully nasal, French-sounding reedy textures.

Every time I’ve played this work through I’ve come to admire it more. I have one slight question mark in my mind. On the recording the viola is well balanced against the organ and the choir. However, I do wonder how easy it would be to hear the viola in live performances, especially in some of the louder passages in which the instrument features.

I have no doubt at all that David Bednall’s Requiem is a very significant addition to the choral repertoire and I hope that this superb recorded performance will bring it to the attention of a wide audience and lead to other choirs taking it up. I should imagine it’s a challenging work to sing and a successful performance will require also the involvement of an expert violist and an equally proficient organist who has access to a top quality organ. I love the purity of the sound of the high voices and I appreciate that this is what makes this work so distinctive and special. That said, I would urge David Bednall to consider arranging the work also for four-part SATB choir. I readily acknowledge that such an arrangement would alter the sound world of the Requiem significantly but I’m sure mixed choirs would love to take it into their repertoire.

The three short anthems that follow the Requiem are all most attractive and Regent have done Bednall proud with excellent sound and a very well produced booklet. Anyone who is interested in choral music should try to hear this wonderful disc.”
John Quinn, Music Web International, June 2010 – Disc of the Month


“31-year-old David Bednall has entered into a most auspicious competition in trying to write a Requiem. Of all liturgical works, this one has perhaps the greatest number of greatest exponents of the form, ranging from those of the ancients to Verdi’s scary-as-hell choral opera, to Fauré’s St. Peter-is-waiting-for-you, to the Brahms deconstructionist version of that entity that doesn’t really exist, the Protestant Requiem. Bednall admits that the primary influences in this work are the Fauré and Duruflé pieces, along with a smattering of Herbert Howells’ Hymnus paradisi, a work I have always enjoyed though I find it a tad extended.

Bednall is an organist, and so it should come as no surprise that the organ features prominently in this piece, to both subtle and full-force effect. The addition of a solo viola was a stroke of genius, as it adds a degree of pathos and illumination to the whole. In fact, so interesting is the viola part that I think it would be a shame indeed were the composer not to extract a lot of this music into some sort of “Requiem Sonata” for viola and organ or piano. No thanks needed, Mr. Bednall.

The music sounds chant-like all through, though the composer in the notes assures us that not a quaver of chant was used, though it did inspire much of the music. The high voices add a tinge of the exotically esoteric, religiously speaking, as their calmness does inspire one to thoughts of “higher” things, surely the intention in the scoring. None of this is hard to grasp, most of it beauteously consoling, and Bednall has written a work that ranks among the very best things I have heard on the liturgical/sacred concert front. He should be proud of the effort, and I hope he will slowly branch out into some other genres so we can see what he can do.

The three anthems here are a little more direct in their emotional appeal, but that is what anthems are supposed to be. The acoustics are excellent, the recording fine, the viola superb, the organ registrations thoughtful and apt... this is a thoroughly enjoyable release that all but the curmudgeonliest listener is bound to take a liking to. The choir of St. Mary’s Calne, by the way, is from a boarding school for girls in Wiltshire, around 310 of them aged 11–18. They can certainly sing.”  Steven E. Ritter, Fanfare Magazine, July 2010


"Bednall’s Requiem of 2007 was commissioned for the choir on this CD, the Chamber Choir of St. Mary’s Calne, a girls’ school in the west of England. It begins, most unusually, and very effectively, with an extended solo for viola, discreetly accompanied by the organ—the very sound of the viola evoking echoes of Vaughan Williams. But with the entry of the girls’ voices Bednall’s French inclinations soon become audible—he mentions Duruflé as an influence, a presence underlined by the chant-inflected sobriety of approach, until the Kyrie morphs into a close cousin of the Fauré Requiem. Often in this piece, the sense of innocence imparted by the girls’ voices finds a direct contrast in the asperity of the organ writing, and Bednall keeps the solo viola in readiness for occasional deployment to create yet further textural relief, the instrumental line threading its ways around and through the voices... Let All the World (2008), the last of the three anthems that fill out the disc, is an exuberant outburst of energy, the voices and organ bouncing off each other in rhythmic enthusiasm." Martin Anderson, Fanfare Magazine, July 2010


"Confirming the promise of his 2007 debut – Hail, gladdening Light – David Bednall’s Requiem, his largest piece to date, is a hauntingly beautiful work for high voices sung with well-proportioned, sweet sincerity by the St Mary’s Calne Chamber Choir, and expressively underpinned by the composer on organ and Philip Dukes’s keening, darkly luminous viola. The three coupled anthems let in light with O come let us sing, a re-working of Bednall’s airy setting of Psalm 95, and flex emotional and vocal muscle in the sober Salvator mundi and thumping rhythmic ebullience of an especially rousing take on Let all the world." Michael Quinn, Choir and Organ, May 2010


"David Bednall is a freelance composer as well as sub-organist at Bristol Cathedral. His Requiem for the rather unusual combination of treble choir, solo viola, and organ; he sets the same condensation of the Latin text as did Fauré and Duruflé and even follows them in entrusting the Pie Jesu to a solo soprano. The solo viola, exquisitely played by Philip Dukes, appears with the organ in a reflective Prelude and after the Lux aeterna in a Communion-Interlude. The latter is an extended (seven minutes plus) piece with some sections of grief and others of pleasant memory. Much of the choral writing is unison, and the 43 girls (ages 14 to 18) produce a beautifully smooth unison sound. Divisions into parts are perfectly balanced, and the tone quality throughout is appealing. Edward Whiting uses the organ (sic) in Marlborough College Chapel with sensitivity and assurance.

The programme concludes with three short motets of Bednall: O come let us sing unto the Lord, Salvator mundi (text from the Good Friday Liturgy), and Let all the world in every corner sing. These are fine anthem-length selections that would appeal to a well-trained treble choir." Association of Anglican Musicians, May 2010


“It's difficult to decide what is more extraordinary about British composer David Bednall's (born in 1979) Requiem: its complete effectiveness as a musically successful, contemporary, liturgically functional Requiem, or the fact that although Bednall's musical language is unabashedly conservative, it sounds entirely fresh and free of cliché. His harmonic language is close to that of his predecessors in the British Cathedral Choral tradition, but unlike most of those who adopt that language, he is able to avoid the haunting influence of Howells, Vaughan Williams, Britten, and Rutter, and develop a voice of his own. Economically scored for viola, organ, and women's voices, the Requiem is notable for Bednall's sensitivity to the meanings of the texts of each of the movements, which he conveys not only in ways that fulfill the listener's expectations (i.e., In Paradisium is appropriately radiant and serene), but with an insightful creativity that brings out new levels of nuance in the texts. There are no missteps; each movement is aptly and beautifully set, with both sophistication and simplicity. The use of a viola is brilliantly appropriate because of its unique tonal capabilities, which can range from the most somber to the most luminous and several lovely movements are scored only for viola and organ. Bednall's text-setting is transparent and natural; this is a score that would not be beyond the reach of a disciplined amateur choir, but there is nothing about it that feels dumbed-down. The composer provides the chaste organ accompaniment, and violist Philip Dukes plays with warmly understated lyricism. The Chamber Choir of St. Mary's Calne, led by Edward Whiting, is made up of middle school and high school girls. They sing with purity, unmannered sweetness, and excellent intonation. Only in a few very high passages does their tone tend to get a little thin. Soloists Miriam Thiede and Rebecca Rothwell are very fine. This is a work that should be of strong interest to fans of new liturgical music and lyrical choral music.” Stephen Eddins, All Music Guide


"Bednall’s Requiem has intended echoes of Fauré and Duruflé, but with a wider emotional range, the solo viola accompaniment adding a dark, keening edge, while the organ in the Domine Jesu Christe and instrumental Communion Interlude drag the mood towards grief. But the underlying mood is optimistic and the work – along with the other three on the disc – rewards performers and listener with its mellifluous luminosity. The choir of women’s voices performes with polish and panache." Classical Music 13th March 2010, Recording of the Fortnight (4-Stars)


"Mixing imagination with musical traditions, David Bednall's recently completed and extensive Requiem is one of the most enjoyable British choral works to have emerged for decades. Avoiding modern atonality, it is a score that challenges singers and fascinates the ear. The accompaniment for viola and organ is so skilfully deployed you feel it is a chamber orchestra. The girls from the Wiltshire school of St Mary's, Calne, are superb by any standard and Bednall's organ playing is thrilling." DD, Yorkshire Post, 26th March 2010


"The Prelude to David Bednall's Requiem features the internationally-renowned viola player Philip Dukes and sets the scene in a suitably atmospheric manner, reminding us somewhat of Tavener's "Protecting Veil" played in a higher register. The piece continues at the top end, so to speak, by using The Chamber Choir of St Mary's Calne which is an all-girl ensemble. Soloists are Miriam Thiede in "Domine Jesu Christe" and Rebecca Rothwell in "Pie Jesu". Neither disappoints. David Bednall, who is also the featured organist on this recording, writes beautiful melodies which, for this reviewer, are stronger than his choral writing. This is not to criticise the choir, which sings well throughout, but merely an observation which is borne out in the instrumental "Communion - Interlude". One would not wish to appear to patronise the choir by pointing out that it is a school choir and so, perhaps, the composer did not want to over extend himself. Be assured that these young ladies are every bit as accomplished as most cathedral and Oxbridge choirs. Perhaps instead we should go back to our opening remarks and look at this as having a sacred simplicity such as we would find in Tavener or Pärt. I enjoyed it very much. The CD concludes with three shorter choral works: "O Come Let Us Sing", "Salvator Mundi", and "Let All The World". All three would make welcome additions to any choir's repertoire and we hope and expect to hear much more from composer and choir in the future." Steven Whitehead, Cross Rhythms Website, 28th January 2010


"David Bednall is another composer who has picked up the tradition of Howells and takes it towards new horizons, in this case mingled with twentieth-century French harmonies and timbres. It is frequently restless music, searching and striving, not least in the uneasy ‘Libera me’. But the following ‘In paradisum’ is all the more of a contrast as the vocal ‘chorus angelorum’ is led by solo viola to eternal light and peace. The musical techniques used are traditional but applied with skill and an emotional sincerity that results in a disturbing and rewarding piece. The chamber choir of St Mary’s Calne, 43 girls between 14 and 18, should be hugely proud of the vivid sound and mature musicianship they display". Judith Markwith, Church Music Quarterly March 2010


"Since his appointment as Organ Scholar at Gloucester Cathedral in 2000, Mr. Bednall has impressed widely through his playing and composing. This Requiem (an expanded version of a Missa Brevis from 2007, with new movements including viola/organ interludes) is poignant and thoughtful, and the exquisite performance by the St. Mary's girls (middle-school and high-school ages, singing with a notable unity of pitch and ensemble) is equally notable. Search this one out!" Minnesota Public Radio, 28th January 2010

Hail, gladdening Light – Sacred Choral Music of David Bednall (Regent Records)

“I have just listened to all your wonderful compositions. Beautiful, inspired, meditative and contrasted, with excellent balances to serve a clear and immaculate melodic and harmonic control. Thank you for your tactfulness in mentioning my name as your teacher and for your kind manuscript words on the CD. Now you are the Maître and I am the student. Congratulations Maestro from the bottom of my heart.” Dr Naji Hakim


“There are some organ-loft composers who should remain firmly closeted with their diapasons. On the other hand, there are some who understand the choral medium much better than a few big-name composers I could think of. David Bednall, assistant organist at Wells Cathedral and only midway through his twenties, is just at the threshold of the latter group, and looks set to do some really interesting things. The harmonic style is a couple of miles offshore of France, with Cochereau, Dupré and Langlais providing the prevailing wind…this pungent, turbulent style; it is music in a perpetual state of climax…” (4 stars) William Whitehead BBC Music Magazine, March 2007


"Still in his mid-twenties, organist and composer David Bednall is announced as an important and individual voice on this more-than promising Regent release. The Wells Cathedral Choir are in world-class form here, making the most persuasive case possible for the composer. Watch this space, as they say." Editor’s Choice, Gramophone May 2007


"David Bednall (b1979) is an accomplished organist – a fact underlined by a fine display of virtuosity in the extended Adagio – who has already appeared as soloist and accompanist on a number of discs. This latest release also shows him to be a thoroughly assured composer, the many influences on his style generously acknowledged in his own booklet-note. Most obvious of these is Duruflé, not least in the expansion of the plainchant melodies on which both the deliciously luminous Hail, gladdening light and the unaccompanied setting of the Mass Lux et origo are based. Other French composers (with Messiaen leading the pack) have flavoured the writing in the wonderfully spacious canticles of the Wells Service, and the influence of English composers may be rather more subtle (if Bednall hadn’t mentioned him, I would never have identified Finzi as an influence).

However, it’s not the influences themselves but how they coalesce into a distinctive compositional voice which matters, and this is immensely inspired writing producing an effect which is never less than deeply attractive, musically rewarding and utterly coherent. It is, of course, greatly to Bednall’s benefit that he has been able to call on the services of Matthew Owens and the marvellous Wells Cathedral Choir. They are at the very top of their form, one of the most impressive of today’s British cathedral choirs. They sing this music with great assurance and clearly relish Bednall’s sometimes very heady musical language. Their luxurious tone and impressive dynamic range, magnificently captured in this superlative recording, give a real edge to music which stands out vividly as much for its musical as for its communicative qualities. New kid on the block or not, David Bednall is clearly a composer with something very worthwhile to say." Marc Rochester, Editor’s Choice, Gramophone May 2007


"They must think highly of David Bednall at Wells Cathedral, and it’s easy to see why. This CD devoted to his compositions (how many other cathedral assistant organists have been honoured in this way?) is a handsome tribute. Bednall also appears as accompanist, and in the well-constructed and emotionally charged Adagio for Organ combines his ability to express and develop musical ideas with that of an assured soloist. The singing of Wells Cathedral Choir – its fine eighteen-voice girl choristers on the top line – is immaculate and Matthew Owens, for whom several of the works were written, directs with flair and obvious enthusiasm for Bednall’s music.

Bednall admits to being influenced by several other composers, including the usual suspects Finzi, Vaughan Williams and Howells. He also pays stylistic tributes to Duruflé and Messiaen, and in his rhythmic muscularity one can detect elements of his teacher Naji Hakim.

The most substantial items are two canticle settings, the 2005 Wells Service, which enterprisingly includes all four matins texts, and the evening Gloucester Service from 2001, the earliest work on the disc. To my mind the Wells set is superior, especially in the original touches Bednall brings to the Te Deum – some lovely quiet close-harmonies at “Also the Holy Ghost” and a definite air of supplicants’ torment in “We believe that thou shalt come to be our Judge” – and in the Jubilate, when a skittering soprano quartet reprises the opening words while the rest of the choir sings “For the Lord is gracious”.

Even more unusual is the Benedicite. Here Bednall’s approach is more about diversity than celebration, drawing on the sounds and images of Eastern worship that Messiaen found so fruitful. The anthem Hail, gladdening Light is particularly interesting, combining traditional male-voice plainsong – a latin Nunc Dimittis set to the proper chant for Candlemas – with upper voices singing Keble’s translation of the Greek hymn, with a tantalising aleatoric Amen at the end.

Gregorian chant features in two other works. Come, Holy Ghost is an original setting of the Pentecostal hymn for men’s voices, which refers obliquely to the original melody with a tuneful directness that has instant appeal; and Lux et Origo is an unaccompanied “alternatim” Mass setting, where single-line chant alternates with harmonised and polyphonic sections. It works very well, too, Bednall’s 21 st century harmonies offering a logical progression from the traditional plainsong.

Given the accessibility and imaginative thrust of Bednall’s music he should now consider extending his range further, into instrumental and larger works perhaps. Who knows, with his facility and undoubted flair he might well hit the big time – and this excellent CD could become a collector’s item!" DH, The Organ Magazine No. 339, February 2007


"Echoes of Messiaen, Finzi and Howells blend with original gestures in Bednall's potent choral works." (4 stars) Classic FM Magazine, April 2007


"In his interesting notes that accompany this CD David Bednall expresses his agreement with Herbert Howell's desire to "make nice sounds" in his compositions. Bednall lists his influences for us: Howells, Finzi, Vaughan Williams and others who use tonality as a compositional force. ….this is
still a forward-looking collection. Bednall is not writing pastiche but is trying and generally succeeding in finding his own voice. An "Easter Alleluia" opens up the proceedings with some splendid singing by the bass Christopher Sheldrake. Also we get music written for Wells Cathedral,
Gloucester Cathedral and Douai Abbey as well as an interesting "Adagio For Organ" played by the composer….On this CD [Wells Cathedral Choir] do themselves and their conductor Matthew Owens proud. Those who have an interest in contemporary choral music will appreciate this CD."
(8/10) Steven Whitehead on www.crossrhythms.co.uk


“(Hail, gladdening light) was released in the U.K. in 2006, when its featured composer was all of 27 years old—a loquacious tribute to his talent, and to the faith those around him have in his abilities. The opening Easter Alleluia (2005) puts Bednall’s cards squarely on the table: A hieratic solo bass introduces joyfully dissonant chorus and organ. The Wells Service (2005) presented here consists of four movements, here split into two panels of two, largely maintaining the mood of jagged exultation... Come, Holy Ghost (2002) has a broad, Vaughan Williamsish certainty to it; I wasn’t surprised to read in Bednall’s notes that it is chant-based. The alternatim Mass Lux et Origo (2005) comes as a complete contrast; chant here plays a much more direct part, and the relative simplicity, melodic and textural, allows the piece to act as a point of repose in the middle of the program. In Hail. Gladdening Light (2006) Bednall allows himself some restrained ecstasy, the clusters at the end produced by giving the singers their aleatoric head. Oddly enough, in view of our conversation about truncating larger organ works into single movements, Bednall’s Adagio, which rises to a climax and falls back again, sounds rather as if it might be from a substantial sonata in the making. Finally, The Gloucester Service (2001) is a “mag and nunc,” with one foot in Vaughan Williams and the other in Walton." Martin Anderson, Fanfare Magazine 2010


"David Bednall’s music has been unfamiliar to me until now. On the basis of this recording I can say that he is a very resourceful and imaginative composer of liturgical music in the Anglican tradition. (He is, I should add, an accomplished organist, currently Assistant Organist at Wells.) He writes in his accompanying notes that ‘the main ingredients in my own compositions are colour and texture. I believe these to be the essential elements in establishing mood and atmosphere, and critical in any successful and reflective setting of a text’, and these two elements are certainly those on which the greatest attention is lavished in this selection of works.

The descriptive quality of the ‘Te Deum’ from The Wells Service, for example, is quite remarkable. There is certainly something of Howells there, in the piling up of meandering polyphonic lines (Bednall readily acknowledges his influence), but also a grasp of the atmospheric possibilities of a simple sequence of chords, a crescendo or the alternation of a group of soloists with the full choir. This is even more the case with the dramatic ‘Jubilate’, which makes particularly effective use of the organ (played by the composer) and has some lovely moments for the four soprano soloists.

……this is a challenging and inspiring disc (and the fine quality of the recording should not go unmentioned) which should be welcomed by all enthusiasts of choral music." Ivan Moody, International Record Review March 2007


"David Bednall’s talents as a composer and organist have been nurtured and shaped by Anglican cathedral music and by the music of an eclectic group of composers beyond the tradition. He lays his cards on the table, citing Cochereau as well as Vaughan Williams, Finzi and, above all, Herbert Howells. Thus, to a certain extent, listening to this CD is a ‘spot the composer’ exercise. The improvisatory excitement of Cochereau is well to the fore in the exuberant Jubilate and Benedicite of The Wells Service; the spirit of Howells hovers over several settings of familiar texts and the one organ piece in the programme, Adagio for Organ, is the best slow movement Mahler never wrote. Out of all this, however, David Bednall handles his own musical language with a sure touch, displaying great ingenuity in his use of melody, colour, texture and structure, fully justifying his own belief that ‘the tonal, or at least the polytonal world is far from exhausted.’

The Lux et Origo Mass alternates the Easter plainchant with polyphony in a refined and restrained setting of the Ordinary with its roots deep in the long traditions of liturgical music. Hail, gladdening Light also uses plainsong in an ingenious combination of a Latin Nunc Dimittis alongside the words of the ancient hymn sung in English. Bednall avoids the temptation to use plainchant in Come, Holy Ghost but treats the inspirational text to a broad setting for men’s voices with a colourful organ accompaniment.

All the pieces on the disc were written for specific performers and situations. Thus, each has been carefully fashioned and this accounts for the great variety in moods and expression among individual items.

There is so much to enjoy on this excellent CD and the composer is well served by the splendid Wells Cathedral Choir. The interpretations gain in authenticity by having the organ accompaniments played by the composer and the performers are all on home ground. The climaxes are beautifully gauged and built and there are moments of grandeur and excitement balanced by others of peaceful serenity. The choir uses only the cathedral girls who sing with freshness and control of line. The soloists, all drawn from the choir, are excellent. The whole enterprise is directed by Matthew Owens who is to be commended for his espousal of contemporary church music not only with this enjoyable CD but also for at least four others currently available." Alan Spedding Organist’s Review, June 2007


"....here we meet a brilliant new voice in composition. Track after track on this enjoyable disc reveals and then confirms that Bednall is blessed with invention and technique. His solo organ music is assured, but his choral writing simply takes your breath away. Those of us who love choral music, and who are always searching for the ‘next great thing,’ will feel that they have found it in Bednall. His style shows a multiplicity of influences, from Messiaen and Langlais to Howells and Arthur Wills, but already it is truly his own.The opening “Easter Alleluia”... as a composition it borders on the ecstatic, as a recording it is powerful testimony to the excellent engineering and production by Regent’s Gary Cole...

So, all in all, Wells is to be praised for this pioneering work, introducingus to a vibrant new composer who has set about invigorating the Anglican repertoire. The veracity of this claim may be judged by hearing Bednall’s wholly original and gripping setting of texts as familiar as “Come, Holy Ghost” and the title track for this recording, “Hail, Gladdening Light.” And anyone who finds tedious some choral “Benedicites” will be simply bowled over by Bednall’s version. The rest of the disc includes an alternatim Mass for Douai Abbey, and canticles for the cathedral choirs at both Wells and Gloucester. Those who purchase this CD .... will find themselves longing for an American commission to bring his music this side of the Atlantic. For now, though, this disc serves as a potent and engaging introduction to a brilliant new talent, and showcases one of England’s finest cathedral choirs. Home-grown music has rarely sounded so good!" Philip Barnes, Choral Journal, USA


“The Cathedral at Wells has been extraordinarily lucky to have a fresh and keen composer amongst its musical staff. Bednall quotes in the booklet: ‘One of the challenges for any contemporary composer is to discover a compositional style and language which has a distinct nature’. Bednall creates music that feels as though it has come out of St Sulpice, rather than Somerset – not entirely surprising when you realize he counts Naji Hakim amongst his teachers.

The disc comprises a vast amount of liturgical music (one each of Te Deum, Jubilate, Mass, Benedicite, Benedictus, Magnificat and Nunc dimittis) as well as a majestic anthem for men’s voices (Come Holy Ghost), an enchanting setting of Hail, gladdening Light, and a ‘dark and anguished’ Adagio for Organ. Nearly all of the music was written for singers, buildings and organs known to the composer and that shows – it is all very well suited.

Bednall is not afraid to make the most of louder dynamics which is no bad thing; indeed, I think it is a phenomenal blazing sound that the Wells organ creates. However, this does lead to occasions where the choir (clearly going at full pelt) can’t be heard as much as they should be. It is a Catch-22 situation though: and less organ and it wouldn’t have the same effect. His more reflective pieces are both beautifully written and sensitively performed. This is particularly the case in the title piece of the disc which is simply stunning, and Howells’s influence on Bednall is most apparent here.

Still in his 20s, this is a composer who has the potential to be something very special indeed. Wells must be upset to lose not only a fine composer but an excellent organist. Watch out for him.” Rated ‘Essential Listening’, Church Music Quarterly, December 2007


"The Jubilate to his Wells Service is nigh-on an organ concerto: the Wells boys skip lithely above Bednall’s adept accompaniment; while a marked French influence - Messiaen, Alain - shows in the preceding Te Deum. There is some finely controlled men’s singing in “Come, Holy Ghost”, a striking Mass for Douai Abbey, a terrific two-boy lead to yet another Benedictus, and a haunting mystery to a modal solo-tinged Benedicite, the last encompassed in totality in a mere eight minutes. Bednall’s Gloucester service rounds off." Church Times


“In the May/June issue, I reviewed works for treble choir by David Bednall (b.1979); this month brings two selections of pieces for mixed voices with a different ensemble and director. The performances are exemplary with the superb Wells Choir and internal soloists. The first disc (Hail, gladdening light) uses Girl Choristers only… Here and there the diction might be improved, but full texts are provided, and the performances are still praiseworthy. Most of the programmes consist of standard texts in new settings.

Between the two discs we hear complete The Wells Service, with all eight of the canticles specified for the daily offices in The Book of Common Prayer 1662; this includes the “alternative canticles” – Benedicite, Omnia Opera; Benedictus; Cantate Domino; and Deus Miseratur – along with the “ordinary” – Te Deum Laudamus; Jubilate; Magnificat; and Nunc dimittis. The liner suggests that “the setting of all eight canticles by a single composer for one foundation [Wells] is possibly unique, and the settings make use of some shared material and leitmotifs to add an even greater sense of unity.” The Te Deum and Jubilate, in particular, are elegantly festive, and the other six are winning settings.

The first programme (Hail, gladdening light) includes Bednall’s Lux et Origo: Alternatim Mass for Douai Abbey, in which the proper Mass chant for Easter Day alternates with discreet choral sections. The work is especially attractive and would appeal to a congregation; I also found it pleasant for mere casual listening. It is followed by a most imaginative setting of the Veni Creator Spiritus, appropriate for Pentecost or any other occasion relevant to the Holy Spirit. The title work is a fascinating setting in which the tenors sing the Latin text of the Nunc Dimittis with antiphons against the English hymn text (as we know it from Charles Wood’s eponymous setting), all leading to an aleatoric Amen. The disc concludes with an attractive Adagio for Organ, and the Evening Canticles composed for Ian Ball and the Gloucester Cathedral Choir in 2001.

…The liners include programme notes, complete texts, and biographies. Gary Cole’s conscientious engineering is evident, as always, in the reproduction.”

The Journal of the Association of Anglican Musicians, September 2010 (Includes review of Flame Celestial)

World Premiere of From Heaven Above to Earth I come commissioned by the St Louis Chamber Chorus - Director Philip Barnes

"For sheer appeal, it would be hard to top the Chamber Chorus' nifty new commission by the young British composer David Bednall. "From heaven above to Earth I come," a setting of Luther's "Vom Himmel hoch," is melodic, happily rhythmic and kind to both the voice and the ear." Sarah Bryan Miller, St Louis Post-Dispath Classical Music Critic

Choral Music of Geoffrey Burgon (Hyperion Records)

“The vivid direction by Matthew Owens is greatly aided by David Bednall’s creative organ contribution…” Gramophone, December 2006


"...a riveting performance enhanced by the playing of David Bednall...." (Five stars) Choir and Organ, March/April 2007

Sounds Parisian (Lammas Records) Music of Hakim, Vierne and Messiaen at Blackburn Cathedral

“It's really excellent. Bravissimo! All the pieces are beautifully played and in particular you gave outstanding performances of both Le Tombeau d'Olivier Messiaen and the Vexilla Regis prodeunt, accuracy with a great sense of poetry. And the organ or Blackburn cathedral is very effective! Congratulations and many thanks again for all the real artwork you have done!” Dr. Naji Hakim

“.....David Bednall, currently sub-organist at Wells Cathedral, who, as a student of Naji Hakim, might be expected to offer an authoritative view on his teacher’s own music. He doesn’t just do that, he performs it with all the proselytizing earnestness of a true disciple…Bednall comes across as a persuasive advocate who combines outstanding virtuosity with a real sense of musical commitment… for spine-tingling organ sound and stunning virtuosity in the works of Naji Hakim, this disc is a sure winner.” International Record Review, July/August 2005

Sounds Spontaneous Improvisations Through The Church’s Year (with Malcolm Archer) (Lammas Records)

“Malcolm Archer and David Bednall show themselves highly imaginative, sometimes fearless, improvisers. In general, Malcolm Archer's improvisations tend to be the more 'rounded' and conventional, sounding like notated compositions; while David Bednall's tend to be more experimental. That is not to suggest that one musician is better than the other, but listeners might possibly find themselves preferring the improvisations of one or the other, depending on their own tastes. On a disc like this, having improvisations by two men of differing musical personalities lends variety to the programme and thus makes the listening experience all the more enjoyable. Both organists have the ability to create convincing musical structures and to conjure-up magical sound-worlds, drawing upon the full spectrum of colours that the organ of Blackburn Cathedral has to offer.” Church Music Quarterly, March 2006


“You could say this disc serves two purposes. Firstly, there's the obvious appeal of hearing music moulded into shape on the spur of the moment. And indeed each track is a delight: most are based on Gregorian chant including Victimae Paschali lasting nearly 14 minutes!) or other well-known tunes. Equally, however, the disc carries a more serious message. David Bednall”s comment in the cover-notes that improvisation in the UK is all too often “regarded as mere 'filling-in', a form of liturgical wallpaper whose function is simply to cover the sound of moving feet” is not unfair. “Sounds Spontaneous” then, sets out to prove that things don't have to be like that. And without suggesting that organists of the said crime are going to transform their playing overnight into something of the standard here, the disc may well prompt many to review the role of improvisation to enhance worship in the service as a whole.” Cathedral Music


“Malcolm Archer, newly of St. Paul's Cathedral, and David Bednall, associated with Wells Cathedral, here combine their expertise, and exercise it on the extravagant Blackburn Walker. The artists are obviously familiar with it [the Blackburn organ]; if in fact these are what they appear to be - that is, true improvisations - then this is indeed a “how-to” on how to improvise. Each “composition” follows the guideline they set for themselves which is “... Liturgical improvisation at its best should reflect and enhance the mood and meaning of the occasion and season.” “Innovative” is far too limited a word for these performances. One after the other, they tantalize and fulfil, producing the unexpected and the foregone, leading to a true sense of both occasion and season. There are preludes, postludes and interludes, all created at the moment with the excitement that attends creation. And never an insecure moment intrudes. From less than two minutes for All Saints to more than 13 minutes of improvisation for Easter, this entire recording is a bounteous treasure for anyone who values this art, this skill, this... creation? Heartily recommended.” The American Organist.

Songs by Michael Head and Friends (With Richard Rowntree – Tenor) (Lammas Records)

"Rowntree and David Bednall give us smooth, accomplished performances of this oh-so-English music, reinforced by the choice of the 'friends'. The singer has some wonderful soft top notes within a clear and well thought through melodic line... Bednall provides subtle and supportive piano accompaniment at all times, colouring the voice with just the right combination of reticence and drama that we expect from a good player: just listen to King David." DB The Organ No. 341

Francis Jackson – Sacred Choral Works (Delphian Records)

“..virtuoso organ playing by David Bednall.” Gramophone, December 2006


“David Bednall provides superb organ accompaniment” Organists Review, February 2007

Britten - Missa Brevis and other works for treble voices – Malcolm Archer and the Boy Choristers of Wells Cathedral (Lammas Records)

“Mr. Bednall plays to the boys and does not overwhelm them. His skill in reducing the air through the pipes at the appropriate time is very noticeable on this particular recording. So, when one of the soloists draws in his breath, on the release (in song) the organ has "piped down" and we are allowed to let the boys human instrument take over - as it should.” The World of Trebles and Boychoirs, 19 January 2005

Comfort and Joy with the St Cecilia Singers – Directed by Ian Ball. (Lammas Records)

“The Gloucester organ is a perfect vehicle for David Bednall to produce some attractive and varied colours for the accompaniment, and he matches this with some sensitive piano playing which helps give the listener's ear another timbre to hear.” Church Music Quarterly September 2002

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