Long Biography

Kenneth Hesketh has been described as “one of the UK's most vibrant voices, having a brand of modernism that reveals true love for sound itself” (International Piano) and as "a composer who both has something to say and the means to say it” (Tempo magazine). Hesketh has received numerous national and international commissions and has worked with leading ensembles and orchestras in the USA, Far East and Europe.

He has received numerous national and international commissions, including the Fromm Foundation at Harvard University, a Faber Millennium Commission for Birmingham Contemporary Music Group premiered under Sir Simon Rattle, the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic orchestra conducted by Vasily Petrenko, the BBC Philharmonic conducted by Vasilly Sinaisky, Hans Werner Henze and the Endymion Ensemble (in honour of Henze's 75th birthday), the Munich Biennale, the Seattle Symphony Orchestra, the Michael Vyner Trust for the London Sinfonietta, the Göttinger Symphonie Orchester, The Opera Group, Britten Sinfonia, ensemble Psappha and Kissinger Sommer Internationales Musikfestival. Between 2007 to 2009 Hesketh was Composer in the House (Royal Philharmonic Society/ PRS Foundation scheme) with the RLPO. He has been represented at festivals from London (BBC Proms) to the USA (Tanglewood/Bowdoin) to China (Beijing Modern Music Festival).

Hesketh is professor of composition and orchestration at the Royal College of Music, honorary professor at Liverpool University and active as a guest lecturer and visiting professor. He has taught at the Summer Academy of the Ionian University, the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing, Bowdoin International Music Festival, and Cheltenham Composer Academy. He co-directs a composition course at the Aberystwyth MusicFest in Wales.

His work has been recorded by BIS, NMC, London Sinfonietta, Psappha and Prima Facie labels; the first NMC recording (titled Wunderkammer(konzert) and released in 2013) was devoted to large ensemble and orchestral works. A disc of Hesketh's piano music performed by pianist Clare Hammond was released by BIS in 2016; in the same year the Prima Facie label released a chamber music disc performed by the Continuum Ensemble. All discs were released to critical acclaim.

Hesketh’s early interest in other artforms, be they classical architecture, medieval iconography, poetry or Bauhaus constructivism, have more recently included a fascination with entropy, mutation and existentialism. His work has been described as “pure music, in possessing – because the notes seem to be creating their own harmonic and rhythmic forces and processes – a great freshness.” (Paul Griffiths). Intrigued by sinister or melancholy children's literature (in works such as Small Tales, tall tales and Netsuke), the concept of ‘unreliable machines’ also proliferates throughout Hesketh’s work: short bursts of mechanistic material that attempt metamorphosis but achieve only a more rapid burn-out are principle concerns in works including Theatre of Attractions and Wunderkammer[konzert]. A strong compositional determinate for many of Hesketh’s works is a formal design through the use of transient and fixed group materials. “The considerable surface complexity of his elaborate rhythmic invention is unfailingly refracted through a remarkably acute ear for sonority and colour allied with an obsessive preoccupation with textural transparency.” (Christopher Thomas)

Hesketh has worked with an array of important conductors including Sir Simon Rattle, Vasilly Sinaisky, Vasily Petrenko, Susanna Malkki, Martyn Brabbins, Ludovic Morlot and Pascal Rophé. Oliver Knussen was an important early champion of Hesketh’s music, conducting works with the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group and the London Sinfonietta. Susanna Malkki featured Hesketh’s work in her opening concert as Music Director of Ensemble intercontemporain in Paris. Christoph-Mathias Mueller and Clark Rundell have also championed Hesketh’s music in Britain and Europe with orchestras including the Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana, SWR Sinfonie Orchester Baden-Baden and Ensemble 10/10.

His works for chamber and solo forces have been performed by Nicholas Daniel, Hansjorg Schellenberger, Hans Christoph Begeman, Jan Philip Schulze, Sarah Leonard, Rodney Clarke, Sarah Nichols, Christopher Redgate, Daragh Morgan, Mary Dullea and Clare Hammond. Commissions in this genre include the Endymion Ensemble (in honour of Hans Werner Henze's 75th birthday), the Festival Présences (Paris), the Munich Biennale, Kissinger Sommer Internationales Musikfestival, ensemble Psappha, the Continuum ensemble, the Michael Vyner Trust for the London Sinfonietta, Ensemble contemporain de Montréal and the ASKO ensemble.

Active as an orchestrator, Hesketh has worked on French repertoire, specifically Debussy, Ravel and Henri Dutilleux with whom Hesketh studied at the Tanglewood Music Centre, USA. Hesketh’s transcription of Aphex Twin’s Polygon Window was part of the hugely successful London Sinfonietta and WARP records collaboration which toured Europe and was released on CD.

Hesketh's natural flair for the theatrical has led to work for the stage. His dance work, Forms entangled, shapes collided, commissioned by ensemble Psappha and Phoenix Dance Theatre, through the support of The Royal Philharmonic Society Drummond Fund, toured nationally throughout 2013 with final performances in the Royal Opera House’s Lindbury Theatre. His interest in the bizarre and eerie on celluloid has led to three scores for the medium, including ‘a darting, phantastical score’ (The Telegraph) for ‘Hände’, premiered by pianist Clare Hammond. A score for the film ‘Ein Lichtspiel, Schwarz-weiss-grau’ (1930) by the Hungarian László Moholy-Nagy was deemed "a refreshingly unique, novel and hugely intelligent approach to the mechanical in music" (Classicalsource.com) whilst his score for Theatre of Attractions "inhabits a more darkly-hued sound-world. Obsessive rhythms are combined with immense elemental energy that spills over into unbridled aggression and a manic sense of propulsion." (Musicweb-international).

“Hesketh's music is beautiful, complex and restless ... His response to musical form is particularly remarkable ... The colorful orchestration and palpable verve in the individual gestures and large-scale construction make me want to return to them again and again.” American Record Guide