Kenneth Hesketh (born 1968) is a British composer of contemporary classical music in numerous genres including opera, dance, orchestral, chamber, vocal and solo, who has also composed music for wind and brass bands as well as seasonal music for choir. Hesketh was born in 1968 at Liverpool, England, and began composing whilst a chorister at Liverpool Anglican Cathedral, completing his first work for orchestra at the age of thirteen. He received his first formal commission at nineteen for the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra under Sir Charles Groves. He studied at the Royal College of Music, London, with Edwin Roxburgh, Joseph Horovitz and Simon Bainbridge between 1987 and 1992 and attended Tanglewood in 1995 as the Leonard Bernstein Fellow where he studied with Henri Dutilleux. After he completed a master’s degree in Composition at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, USA, a series of awards followed, including the Shakespeare Prize scholarship from the Toepfer Foundation, Hamburg at the behest of Sir Simon Rattle, an award from the Liverpool Foundation for Sport and the Arts, and on his return to London in 1999 Hesketh was awarded the Constant and Kit Lambert Fellowship at the Royal College of Music, with support from the Worshipful Company of Musicians.
An early enthusiasm for Franco-Russian music of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries was one of the stimuli behind Hesketh’s interest in colorful orchestration, and he has always been inspired by the other arts. Several works have their origins in medieval symbolism and iconography, notably three pieces for chamber ensemble: Theatrum (1996), Torturous Instruments (1997-8, after Hieronymous Bosch’s depiction of Hell from The Garden of Earthly Delights), and The Circling Canopy of Night (1999). This was Hesketh’s first piece to gain international attention. Commissioned by the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group and Faber Music it was first conducted by Sir Simon Rattle and further championed by Oliver Knussen, who has performed many of Hesketh’s works. Performances at the Promenade Concerts at the Royal Albert Hall, London (London Sinfonietta), and the Concertgebouw, Amsterdam (ASKO Ensemble) soon followed. He is also intrigued by children’s literature with a sinister or melancholy streak. His 2000-1 work, Netsuke (from the Japanese miniature sculptures called netsuke) – commissioned by the ensemble Endymion at the request of Hans Werner Henze – comprises five short movements inspired variously by Saint-Exupéry’s Le Petit Prince, Hoffmann’s Struwwelpeter, and a poem by Walter de la Mare. Other such works include Small Tales, tall tales after the Brothers Grimm, and Detail from the Record after Japanese folk tales.
From 2003 to 2005 Hesketh was New Music Fellow at Kettle’s Yard and Corpus Christi College, Cambridge where he curated a series of new music chamber concerts. The Fondation André Chevillion-Yvonne Bonnaud prize was awarded to Hesketh at the 2004 Concours International de Piano d’Orléans after a performance of his Three Japanese Miniatures by pianist Daniel Becker. In 2007, he took up the position of Composer in the House with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra for two years. The scheme, devised by the Royal Philharmonic Society in partnership with the PRS Foundation, was designed to allow composers the time and space to create new work, and to take their place at the heart of the orchestral community. Hesketh’s tenure with the RLPO saw the creation of works for many of the instrumental groups within the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Society, from the orchestra and contemporary music group Ensemble 10/10, with whom Hesketh already has a thriving relationship, to youth ensembles, chamber groups and choirs. He also took part in teaching and outreach projects in Liverpool and Manchester during the two years.
Kenneth Hesketh was made an honorary professor of composition at University of Liverpool in 2008 and is professor of composition and orchestration at the Royal College of Music. He lives in London and is married to the composer Arlene Sierra. Hesketh has received numerous commissions from international ensembles and organisations including the Fromm Foundation at Harvard University, the Continuum Ensemble, a Faber Millennium Commission for the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, the BBC Philharmonic, Hans Werner Henze and Endymion (in honor of Henze’s 75th birthday), the Munich Biennale, the Michael Vyner Trust for the London Sinfonietta, an ENO/Almeida joint commission, the 10/10 Ensemble and the Opera Group at the Linbury Theatre, Covent Garden. His many concert works, including opera, orchestral, chamber, vocal and solo works are published by Schott & Co., London. Hesketh’s other works for symphonic wind band have become contemporary classics of the genre.
The following work by Kenneth Hesketh is contained in my collection:
Masque, Scherzo for Orchestra.
—material selected, adapted, and edited from several different sources