Kenneth Woods has been appointed Artistic Director of the English Symphony Orchestra's new subscription concert series for 2013. His first concert in the new role will take place on 22 March 2013, in Christ Church Malvern.

The English Symphony Orchestra, founded in 1978, has not had an artistic director since the 2008 passing of Vernon Handley, who was appointed Principal Conductor in 2007. Woods joins an orchestra with an illustrious history which includes associations with Sir Yehudi Menuhin, notable soloists such as Stephen Isserlis and Nigel Kennedy, and renowned composers including Sir Michael Tippett and Nicholas Maw. The ESO has made dozens of acclaimed recordings, a notable discography which Woods is expected to augment.

Woods remarks, "The ESO is a world-class group of musicians, with an august history of recording and touring at the highest level. Their administrative team has worked incredibly hard to put the orchestra's finances back on a very strong footing, while developing an enterprising, innovative and wide-ranging education and outreach portfolio. It's an exciting moment for the orchestra to be returning to their historic home of Malvern with their first new subscription series in some time, and I'm very excited they've asked me to partner with them in this new venture."

Peter Sheeran, Chief Executive of the English Symphony Orchestra adds, "I first met Ken Woods a few months ago, together with the ESO's leader Michael Bochmann, to explore how we might work together. We discussed plans, ethics and motivation, and we found that Ken was unusually well-attuned to what we are trying to achieve and that very little had to be spelt out. An opportunity came to put on a concert series at a new venue for us, with very exciting possibilities both on the platform and in its community, and Ken was the obvious person to ask to curate this project during its first year, with other possibilities leading out from that. We cannot wait to get down to work with him in January; his approach came at just the right time for us."

Woods' programming for his first season with the ESO ranges from 18th-century England to 20th-century Russia, with the repertoire united by a common thread. "My colleagues in the orchestra and I wanted this series to make a statement, to articulate a theme," says Woods. "We've picked the Granddaddy of all themes - resiliency. We're going to be looking at the way in which music and art seeks light in dark times, though defiance, humour, struggle, meditation, perseverance or heroic striving."

Woods' first concert with the ESO includes his own arrangement of Victor Ullman's Chamber Symphony (originally composed as his third and final string quartet), written in Terezin just prior to his execution in Auschwitz; Mozart's Clarinet Concerto, which was the composer's last completed instrumental work, responding to illness and crisis with search for tranquillity; and Beethoven's Symphony No. 2, perhaps his most light-hearted symphony, but written concurrently with his Heiligenstadt Testament, when he was seriously contemplating suicide because of his deafness. Future programmes feature works by Arne, Malcolm Arnold, Boyce, Britten, Finzi, Gál, Mendelssohn, Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich.

Woods' appointment as Artistic Director of the English Symphony Orchestra caps a climatic year for the fast-rising conductor. As Principal Guest Conductor of Stratford-upon-Avon-based Orchestra of the Swan, he has captured international recognition for his ongoing series of performances and recordings pairing the symphonies of Hans Gál and Robert Schumann. His world-premiere recordings of the Gál symphonies have been cited by National Public Radio, The New York Times, The Washington Post, the BBC and The Guardian's international edition, among others. Also with Orchestra of the Swan, Woods conducted an acclaimed all-British programme at London's Cadogan Hall, and recorded the world-premieres of two fusion concertos for the release Spring Sounds, Spring Seas, recently selected as one of MusicWeb International's Records of the Year.

As Artistic Director of the English Symphony Orchestra, Woods can be expected to lend the many strings of his bow to the organisation. In addition to his prowess on the podium and in the recording studio, Woods is a cellist of significant stature. This past year, with his Ensemble Epomeo, he recorded the complete string trios of Gal and Krasa, a Critic's Choice in the December issue of Gramophone Magazine, and was soloist in Brahms' Double Concerto with the Surrey Mozart Players alongside violinist Suzanne Casey.

A prolific writer, Woods is widely-read on his blog, A View from the Podium, one of today's top 20 classical music blogs. He has contributed liner notes to a number of releases including EMI's ICON reissue, a 20-CD box set devoted to German conductor Eugen Jochum. And he has guest-blogged for Gramophone magazine. As an arranger, Woods' orchestral version of Ullman's String Quartet No. 3 has been recorded by David Parry and the English Chamber Orchestra for the Gramola label. As a broadcaster, Woods was heard on BBC Radio 3's The Cellists that Time Forgot, hosted by Julian Lloyd Webber.

 

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