The performance launches the English Symphony Orchestra's (ESO) '21st Century Symphony Project' - a commission for nine composers to write nine symphonies to be premiered by the ESO - the first of which has been written by the orchestra's 'John McCabe Composer-in-Association', Philip Sawyers (b.1947).
"I commissioned Philip’s Third Symphony a couple of years ago to celebrate my new partnership with the English Symphony Orchestra”, explained Kenneth Woods, “and it has since become the launching point for this very ambitious plan.”
The ESO has consistently supported the creation and dissemination of new and unknown British music. Commissioning, performing and recording new orchestral works remains a key aspect of the orchestra's mission.
"Part of what the 21st Century Symphony Project is about is commissioning substantial music for a symphonic audience that really uses and challenges the listening skills they’ve built up over the years", adds Kenneth Woods. In the case of Philip’s Symphony, I’ve already conducted a great deal of his music - it’s a language and a personality I feel like I know well, so in some ways, it’s more like learning a new Brahms symphony than learning a new “contemporary” work, and that’s a wonderful feeling."
The 21st Century Symphony Project will continue in 2018 with the world-premiere of David Matthews' Symphony No. 9. "Kenneth Woods is a visionary conductor and a champion of new music," said David Matthews. "Philip Sawyers is a natural symphonist”, he adds, “and his first two symphonies show those qualities of dynamism, drama, contrast and lyricism; they are works that renew the tradition in a vital way."