Hailed by Gramophone as a “symphonic conductor of stature,” conductor, cellist, composer and author Kenneth Woods has worked with the National Symphony Orchestra (USA), Royal Philharmonic, Cincinnati Symphony, BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Budapest Festival Orchestra, Royal Northern Sinfonia and English Chamber Orchestra. He has also appeared on the stages of some of the world’s leading music festivals, such as Aspen, Scotia and Lucerne. In 2013, he took up a new position as Artistic Director and Principal Conductor of the English Symphony Orchestra, succeeding Vernon Handley. In 2015 he was made the second Artistic Director of the Colorado MahlerFest, the only American organization other than the New York Philharmonic to receive the Gold Medal of the International Gustav Mahler Society.
Kenneth Woods was appointed Principal Guest Conductor of the Stratford-upon-Avon based Orchestra of the Swan in 2010. He and the orchestra have recorded the first complete cycle of the symphonies of Austrian composer Hans Gál, paired with those of Robert Schumann for Avie Records. This series has been among the most widely praised classical recording projects in recent years, highlighted in National Public Radio’s All Things Considered, Performance Today, BBC Radio 3, the Sunday New York Times, the Sunday Telegraph, Washington Post and was an Editor’s Choice in Gramophone. Among his other recordings are Schoenberg’s chamber ensemble versions of Das Lied von der Erde and Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen (for Somm) by Gustav Mahler, which won the coveted IRR Outstanding rosette from International Record Review, and Spring Sounds, Spring Seas (for MSR), a MusicWeb ‘Record of the Y ear’. CD releases in 2014 include orchestral music of Philip Sawyers (another MusicWeb Record of the Year) for Nimbus, music of Brahms and Schoenberg for Somm and a disc of new works for violin, cello and narrator for Avie. In October 2014, Avie Records released string trios by Schnittke, Penderecki, Kurtág and Weinberg, and Signum releases a disc of contemporary trumpet concerti by John McCabe, Robert Saxton and Deborah Pritchard with trumpeter Simon Desbruslais. His most recent release, Has Gál, The Four Symphonies, recently won the prestigious Diapason d’or in France.
Woods’ unique gifts were widely acknowledged early on by some of today’s leading conductors. In the spring of 2001, he was selected by Leonard Slatkin to be one of four participants in the National Conducting Institute at the Kennedy Center, where he made his National Symphony debut. Toronto Symphony Music Director Peter Oundjian has praised Woods as “a conductor with true vision and purpose. He has a most fluid and clear style and an excellent command on the podium… a most complete musician.”
In addition to a vast orchestral repertoire which reaches from the Classical masters to the present day, Woods has conducted critically praised productions of operas from Puccini to Britten, and ballet scores as diverse as Giselle, the Nutcracker and Firebird. Woods’ work as an active proponent of contemporary music includes collaborations with such composers as John Corigliano, Philip Sawyers, John McCabe, Jennifer Higdon and Peter Lieberson. As music director of the Oregon East Symphony from 2000-9, Kenneth transformed a tiny orchestra in a remote, rural area into possibly the most talked-about orchestra in the Pacific Northwest, winning universal praise for their nationally celebrated “Redneck Mahler” series, progressive programming and innovative youth outreach. In June 2010, he was invited by the Stradivari Trust to conduct their 25th anniversary concert, featuring a string orchestra of many of the world’s leading soloists and chamber musicians including Natalie Clein, Lawrence Power, Guy Johnston, Matthew Trussler and the Endellion and Fitzwilliam String Quartets.
A respected mentor, in 2005 Woods was asked by the musicians of the Rose City (Oregon) Chamber Orchestra to found a new professional training institute for young conductors. In just a few years under his leadership, the Rose City International Conductor’s Workshop became widely recognized as one of the leading training centers for young conductors, drawing students from the world’s leading conservatories and nations as diverse as Argentina, Japan, Korea, Germany, Spain, Israel, Mexico, Brazil, Russia and Canada.
As a cello soloist and chamber musician, Woods’ collaborators have included members of the Toronto, Chicago and Cincinnati symphonies, the Minnesota, Gewandhaus and Concertgebouw orchestras and the La Salle, Pro Arte, Tokyo and Audubon quartets. He is currently cellist of the string trio Ensemble Epomeo, with whom he performs regularly in the UK, Europe and the USA.
A widely read writer and frequent broadcaster, Woods’ blog, A View from the Podium, is one of the 25 most popular classical blogs in the world. He has spoken on Mahler on NPR’s All Things Considered and BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme. Since 2014, he has been Honorary Patron of the Hans Gál Society.