Last night’s gig….

An incredible day of music making yesterday with my wonderful colleagues in the Orchestra of the Swan.

In many places and with many fine orchestras, doing such a profound, difficult and ambitious program on such a tight rehearsal schedule would have been simply impossible, but everyone yesterday was so well-prepared, flexible and responsive that we were able to go a long, long way towards getting to the heart of 3 really incredible pieces in very little time. Takemitsu’s “Death and Resurrection” was completely new to me- like all his music, it’s very touching, very beautiful and full of longing and thoughtful nostalgia. Britten’s Les Illuminations is one of his finest scores- the inspiration just leaps of the page, and April Frederick sang it with consummate skill.

And what can one say about Shostakovich 14? Forbidding, overpowering, heartbreaking, hilarious, grotesque, beautiful, wretched, terrifying, humbling and haunting. I came away more convinced than ever that it is one of the most important statements on the human condition in any medium to come out of the 20th century. I’ve waited 30 years to conduct it since I first heard it as a kid- let’s hope the wait for the second performance is more logically measurable in months.

Bravo and thanks to April, OOTS and Arwel Huw Morgan, our bass soloist.

I know the blog has been quiet of late. I’ve been holding on for dear life since the beginning of May- it’s been the most interesting, challenging and frenetic 6 weeks of my career to date. The summer ahead is calmer, and I hope to find time to share some more detailed thoughts about all the amazing repertoire and incredible colleagues I’ve encountered these  last few weeks.

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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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