“[One] of the most exciting events I have experienced during a reviewing career approaching half a century” Birmingham Post on ESO Elgar Pilgrimage


An extraordinary rave review from senior critic Christopher Morley for Donald Fraser’s orchestration of the Elgar Piano Quintet as heard in the final concert of the 2015 Elgar Pilgrimage

Composer, producer, conductor and arranger, Donald Fraser

“Two of the most exciting events I have experienced during a reviewing career approaching half a century involve symphonies Elgar never wrote….This “War Symphony” (the title taking its cue from an entry in Alice Elgar’s diary) is a triumph in its recreation of Elgar’s rich orchestral sound-world, and though Fraser, unlike Payne, had all the material in front of him, he had the difficult task of making us forget the original medium and accept the new one…Fraser’s assimilation of Elgar’s orchestral methods bears fascinating fruit and then some. His antiphonal use of brass, athletic horns in conversation with the heavier mob on the other side of the stage, is a highly effective resource; his deployment of percussion (quietly menacing timpani, skeletal tambourine) adds to the points being made, and the strings sing and cushion with gorgeous depths of tone….The ESO certainly played with an enthusiastic awareness that they were making history, and the devoted, unassuming Kenneth Woods conducted with an easy flexibility that recalled the work’s chamber-music origins. This “War Symphony” deserves to be acknowledged immediately as a worthy addition to the Elgar canon.

Mahler’s Songs of a Wayfarer brought a compelling baritone soloist in Njabulo Madlala…His communication of numbed grief was immediately hypnotic, his voice smooth and shapely, with Woods finding portents of far more Mahler symphonies than just the First with which it is so closely associated.

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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 www.kennethwoods.net

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