How to win friends and influence people….

Tonight I made the orchestra play the last section of Mahler 1 several times in a row. I was concerned about the kind of sound we were getting (too percussive, aggressive and harsh), and about some serious ensemble problems in the final bars (strings not all watching in the last accel).

Both the sound and the ensemble got way better, but I’m not sure I got way more popular with some members of the brass section (this is a round-about way of saying I think I pissed them off, and/or stressed them out). It was a lot of high and loud playing. I was quite aware that everyone was getting tired, and didn’t want to do it quite so many times (no, I didn’t count how many- it’s always just once more/one last time until it’s right), but it just took some doing until everything settled in, with a warm, ringing sound and tight, exciting ensemble playing and no brain farts.

As it is, it is Friday and the concert is not until Sunday. Hopefully everyone can get fresh chops back between now and then, and forget about tonight’s traumas. I won’t even think about doing something like that to them tomorrow.

That’s the drama for today.

Otherwise, it’s sounding pretty hot. The end is sounding really hot, with a warm, ringing sound, tight, exciting enemsble playing and no brain farts. Biggest problem, as always, throughout the piece is counting to four during rests….

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About the author

American conductor, composer and cellist Kenneth Woods is Principal Conductor of the English Symphony Orchestra, Artistic Director of the Colorado MahlerFest and cellist of the string trio Ensemble Epomeo. He records for the Avie, Somm, Nimbus, Signum, MSR and Toccata labels.

Learn about Kenneth at

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