Steuart Bedford

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Steuart John Rudolf Bedford OBE (31 July 1939 – 15 February 2021) was an English orchestral and opera conductor and pianist.

He was the brother of composer David Bedford and of singer Peter Lehmann Bedford and a grandson of Liza Lehmann and Herbert Bedford; his parents were Leslie Bedford, an inventor, and Lesley Duff, a soprano opera singer.[1]

Bedford was particularly associated with the music of Benjamin Britten, and conducted the world premiere of Death in Venice in 1973. Bedford also conducted Britten's other operas, and made an orchestral suite of music from Death in Venice. Between 1974 and 1998, he was one of the Artistic Directors of the Aldeburgh Festival. In 1989, he became joint artistic director with Oliver Knussen.[2] In the summer of 2013, Bedford conducted a performance of Peter Grimes which was staged in its natural setting on the beach at Aldeburgh.[3] [4] His book Knowing Britten, compiled through his conversations with the tenor Christopher Gillett, is due to be published in June 2021 by the Britten Press.[5]

His other work in contemporary opera included conducting the 1996 world premiere in Monte Carlo of Lowell Liebermann's The Picture of Dorian Gray,[6] and also the 1999 US premiere.[7]

Bedford conducted several commercial recordings of Britten operas, including the first recording of Death in Venice (Decca), as well as The Turn of the Screw (Collins Classics, since reissued on Naxos).[8] He also recorded his Death in Venice suite[9] and the major vocal cycles by Britten.[10]

Bedford made his operatic conducting debut in February 1964 at the Oxford Playhouse with Britten's Albert Herring.[11]

Bedford was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2016 New Year Honours for services to music.[12]

He was married twice: first to the soprano Norma Burrowes, which ended in divorce in 1980, and secondly to Celia Harding, who predeceased him in 2020.[13] Bedford's elder daughter Charmian Bedford is an operatic soprano working internationally, and his younger daughter Joanna Bedford is an Education Producer at Opera North.

He died on 15 February 2021, aged 81.[13]


  1. ^ Teodoro-Dier, Daniella Theresia. "A Whole Lotta Lehmann", The Art Song Podcast, 25 September 2020, accessed 20 July 2021; and Beldon, Jim. The Development of Radar: The Contribution of Leslie Bedford to the RAF’s Technological Evolution, RAF Centre for Air and Space Power Studies,, 10 May 2018, accessed 20 July 2021
  2. ^ John Rockwell (28 June 1994). "Britten's Music Festival Revives Under a Three-Headed Regime". New York Times. Retrieved 18 October 2009.
  3. ^ Jessica Duchen, "Benjamin Britten’s Peter Grimes, live on the Aldeburgh beach", The Independent (London), 14 June 2013. Retrieved 22 February 2021
  4. ^ "The Guardian: "Obituary - Steuart Bedford", 21 Feb 2021".
  5. ^ BBC Music Magazine, 1 November 2018
  6. ^ K. Robert Schwarz (31 January 1999). "Bringing Tonality, and Fans, to Contemporary Music". New York Times. Retrieved 18 October 2009.
  7. ^ James R. Oestreich (8 February 1999). "Wilde With Shades of Mahler and Strauss". New York Times. Retrieved 18 October 2009.
  8. ^ Andrew Clements (20 June 2003). "Britten: The Turn of the Screw: Langridge/ Lott/ Pay/ Hulse/ Cannan/ Secunde/ Aldeburgh Festival Ensemble/ Bedford". The Guardian. Retrieved 18 October 2009.
  9. ^ Banfield, Stephen (January 1987). "Record Reviews: British symphonies". The Musical Times. 128 (1727): 30. doi:10.2307/964640. JSTOR 964640.
  10. ^ Andrew Clements (24 December 2004). "Britten: Serenade; Nocturne; Phaedra, Langridge/ Murray/ Lloyd/ Northern Sinfonia/ English Chamber Orchestra/ Bedford". The Guardian. Retrieved 18 October 2009.
  11. ^ Programme
  12. ^ "No. 61450". The London Gazette (Supplement). 30 December 2015. p. N11.
  13. ^ a b Millington, Barry (21 February 2021). "Steuart Bedford obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 24 February 2021.