Live Blogging from the Electric 2

Dress rehearsal is done and there’s now a bit of peace and quiet before showtime.  




It seems an article of faith (or just a deeply ingrained part of their training) among British orchestras to “save” a little in dress rehearsals. I suppose everyone with a brain saves a bit in a dress, but I’m often stunned in this country by the difference because of the ways in which the dress is different to the concert.

On balance, I think the Ives is really starting to gel, although it needed a fair bit of proper rehearsing today. It is a completely new language for this orchestra, and it’s a more complex and elusive language than say Copland or Shostakovich for that matter.

Likewise, the Shostakovich mostly is feeling pretty good, and the 2nd movement is going to be very moving. Our principal oboist sounds stunning on the opening solo. I still don’t know what to expect of the last movement- I don’t think people realized I was serious when I told them to go home and listen to Fiddler on the Roof the other night. Shostakovich loved Fiddler on the Roof, and wrote-

“The last time I was in America I saw the film Fiddler on the Roof and it astounded me: its primary emotion is homesickness, sensed in the music, the dancing, the colour. Even though the Motherland is a so-and-so, a bad, unloving country, more a stepmother than a mother. But people still miss her, and that loneliness made itself felt. I feel that loneliness was the most important aspect….”

In the run through, it was all still sounding pretty waspy. Maybe I’m conducting it a bit waspy. Probably, in typical Brit fashion, everyone will bring their soul to the concert.

It has been lovely to return to the Mozart Paris Symphony, which I had some traumatic memories of in my last experience with it (the concert was a miracle, but the rehearsals were terrifying and torturous). It’s interesting all the ways in which it points to later Mozart- the opening is so Haffner-esque, but maybe better, and the Finale is a crazy contrapuntal tour de force, clearly the work of the composer-to-be of the Jupiter. It’s wonderful show-off music for the young composer.

I think the Schumann will be excellent, although by the time we started it, everyone was tired and thinking about dinner. Great horn team. Amazing piece!

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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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