Kenneth Woods, newly-appointed Principal Guest Conductor of the Orchestra of the Swan, will take to the podium on 19 November, armed with music well-known to concert-goers but in a lesser-heard guise - arrangements of Johann Strauss the younger (Emperor Waltz) and Gustav Mahler (Das Lied von der Erde and Lieder Eines fahrenden Gesellen) by the composer better-known for his 12-tone compositions, Arnold Schoenberg. Over the subsequent two days Woods will record the Mahler - his first recordings of the composer's music - for the Somm label. The concert and recording will take place in Shipston's Townsend Hall.
The musical languages of Strauss, Jr. and Schoenberg are worlds apart, yet the latter thought of himself not as a radical but the latest in a long Germanic tradition that stretched back to the baroque, through the 18th and 19th centuries and encompassed the waltz kings. In 1947, Schoenberg wrote, "Whether it is Bach or Mozart, Beethoven or Brahms, Wagner or Mahler, Richard Strauss and modern music, and even Offenbach and Johann Strauss; all this is music, and all this deserves love." Schoenberg created his arrangement of the Emperor Waltz - for flute, clarinet, string quartet and piano to precede a performance of his expressionist work Pierrot lunaire for the 1925 Festival de la Musica Viennesa in Barcelona, organised by one of his pupils. Schoenberg's chamber arrangements of Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde and Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen have become better known especially during the consecutive Mahler anniversary years of 2010 and 2011, commemorating 150 years since the composer's birth and 100 years since his death.
Kenneth Woods has become closely linked with the music of Mahler, regularly conducting the Symphonies and Orchestral Songs, building on many years experience performing them as an orchestral cellist. Whilst Music Director of the Oregon East Symphony, an ensemble in a tiny rodeo town long called the "most remotely situated symphony orchestra on the planet," Woods curated and conducted what came to be known as the "Redneck Mahler" series. This highly unlikely undertaking quickly drew regional and national attention in the US music world. As a commentator on Mahler, Woods has been heard on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, NPR's Morning Edition, and has been widely read online, particularly on his engaging blog A View from the Podium, one of the 25 most read classical blogs. He was commissioned by The Bridgewater Hall for the Manchester in Mahler Festival 2010, to create Mahler, a Performers Perspective, a special series within his blog which resulted in over 30 individual posts.
When Woods performs and records Das Lied von der Erde and Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen, Mahler's first and last song cycles, with the Orchestra of the Swan in November, he will be joined on stage and in the studio by soloists Emma Curtis, contralto; Brennan Guillory, tenor; and David Stout, baritone. The Somm recording, the second in Somm's Orchestra of the Swan chamber-Mahler series, is projected for release in the Spring of 2011.
Appointed Principal Guest Conductor of the Orchestra of the Swan earlier this year, on 4 November Woods will make his London debut conducting the New Queens Hall Orchestra. Woods has also guest conducted the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and Northern Sinfonia, with whom he made a critically acclaimed recording of works by Hans Gál for Avie (AV 2146), praised by Gramophone magazine for the conductor's "highly polished account".
With a growing reputation for combining astute performances and insights with frank opinions about modern musical life, Woods is swiftly making an indelible impression on the UK's musical audiences.