May 31, 2017
Kenneth Woods, English Symphony Orchestra
Kenneth Woods, English Symphony Orchestra
Benjamin Ealovega

Since his appointment as Principal Conductor and Artistic Director of the English Symphony Orchestra (ESO) in 2013, Kenneth Woods has solidly built on the ESO’s foundations of championing today’s foremost composers. This spring, three new releases on three labels feature world-premiere recordings by seven different composers.

On 2 June, Nimbus Records will release An Eventful Morning in East London: 21st Century Violin Concertos by Emily Doolittle, Robert Fokkens – whose work lends its name to the album’s title – David Matthews, Paul Patterson, and Deborah Pritchard. Harriet Mackenzie, a committed champion of contemporary music, is the soloist. The five British-based composers represented on the album provide a wealth of different ethnicities, cultures, interests and influences between them, from Canadian-born Doolittle’s nature inspired falling still, Fokkens’ work which refers to a location in his native South Africa, Matthews’ Mahlerian single-movement Romanza and Patterson’s opera-inspired Allusions. Pritchard’s Wall of Water, commissioned by Woods and the ESO, was written in response to a series of paintings by celebrated artist Maggi Hambling and premiered to great acclaim at LSO St. Luke’s in 2014 with repeat performances at the National Gallery in 2015 and Manchester’s Bridgewater Hall in 2017. A 2014 recording of Wall of Water was originally released by Nimbus as an EP and now takes its place alongside the other world-premiere recordings on An Eventful Morning in East London, “a deeply satisfying and varied programme of music,” according to Composition Today, which praises Mackenzie’s “flawless musicianship” and the “magnificent orchestra under their conductor Kenneth Woods.”

In March 2016, Woods and the ESO, together with pianist Mikhail Korzhev, released the first of two volumes comprising the first complete recorded cycle of the piano concertos by Ernst Krenek (Toccata Classics), “electric performances” according to The Sunday Times. The much-anticipated volume two, released in April 2017, includes the composer’s bravura Piano Concerto No. 4, Concerto for Two Pianos, Double Concerto for Violin and Piano, and Little Concerto for Piano and Organ. Hailed as an “Essential New Release” by The Sunday Times, the “excellent performances … splendidly recorded” (Classical Source) are an “indispensable installment in this important series” (MusicWeb International).

In October 2016, Woods and the ESO gave the world-premiere performance of John Joubert’s Jane Eyre, the orchestra’s first foray into full-length opera. The universally acclaimed performance was captured live by Somm Recordings for a March 2017 release that celebrated the composer’s 90th birthday, “a triumph for Kenneth Woods and his excellent cast and orchestra” (MusicWeb International).

Other notable premieres during Woods’ ESO tenure include works by Kaija Saariaho, Viktor Ullmann, James Francis Brown, Robert Saxton, Donald Fraser and newly-commissioned children’s works by Tom Kraines and Kile Smith, among others. Woods has also premiered a number of his own original compositions and arrangements.

Continuing apace, Woods and the ESO have three further recordings of new works scheduled for release in the autumn of 2017: concertos for trumpet and piano by Geoffrey Gordon, Toby Young, Nimrod Borenstein and Deborah Pritchard, featuring trumpeter Simon Desbruslais and pianist Claire Hammond (Signum Classics); the world premiere recording of Hans Gal’s Concertino for Cello with soloist Matthew Sharp (AVIE Records); and Philip Sawyers’ Symphony No. 3, Songs of Loss and Regret (with soprano April Frederick) and Fanfare (Nimbus). Sawyers’ Third Symphony, commissioned by Woods and the ESO and premiered in February 2017 at London’s St. John’s Smith Square, launches the orchestra’s 21st Century Symphony Project. “A substantial and distinctive contribution to the genre” (bachtrack), fellow composer David Matthews describes Sawyers’ symphonic output as “works that renew the tradition in a vital way.”

* * * * *

For any media enquiries, interview and image requests, please contact Melanne Mueller,, +44 (0) 7788 662 461 or +1 917 907 2785

John Joubert (b. 1927) Jane Eyre: An Opera in Two Acts
Jane Eyre – April Fredrick soprano
Edward Rochester – David Stout baritone
Mrs. Fairfax – Clare McCaldin mezzo-soprano
Rev. St. John Rivers – Mark Milhofer tenor
Kenneth Woods
English Symphony Orchestra
SOMM Recordings SOMMCD 263-2
Release date: 1 March 2017

Ernst Krenek (1900 – 1991) Complete Piano Concertos, Vol. 2
Piano Concerto No. 4, Op. 123
Concerto for Two Pianos, Op. 127 *
Double Concerto for Violin and Piano, Op 124 **
Little Concerto for Piano and Organ, Op. 88 +
Mikhail Korzhev piano
Eric Huebner piano *
Nurit Pacht violin **
Adrian Partington organ +
Kenneth Woods
English Symphony Orchestra
Toccata Classics TOCC0392
Release date: 1 April 2017

An Eventful Morning in East London: 21st Century Violin Concertos
Emily Doolittle (b. 1972) falling still
Robert Fokkens (b. 1975) An Eventful Morning in East London
David Matthews (b. 1943) Romanza
Paul Patterson (b. 1947) Allusions
Deborah Pritchard (b. 1977) Wall of Water
Harriet Mackenzie violin
Kenneth Woods
English Symphony Orchestra
Nimbus Alliance NI 6295
Release date: 2 June 2017

Related Link
Back to List
Back to Top