"Kenneth Woods and the Orchestra of the Swan versus Yannick Nezet-Seguin and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe. Woods wins it. One needs express no surprise when the committed outfit with its own conductor beats the prestige youngsters under the rising star jet-setter. The Woods performance is tighter, rhythmically crisper, richer in contrasts, more characterful and always closer to the composer's wishes."
Kenneth Woods and the Orchestra of the Swan lend this radiant and substantial score the most eloquent and affecting advocacy, and go on to give a comparably accomplished and invigorating account of Schumann's masterly Fourth Symphony –
"[T]here is about Woods’s traversal a ringing personal conviction about the merits of this score which lends a defining urgency and authority to his performance...Under Woods, the Orchestra of the Swan plays with magnetic conviction and unwavering technical assurance. There’s and ardour and resolve here which leaves the listener in no doubt that these musicians and their conductor believe in the worth of every bar of this music and it would be hard not to remain gripped throughout this traversal. Plangent string textures and solo wind contributions of character and distinction show just how far the Orchestra of the Swan ...
The music and playing, conducted by Kenneth Woods, the cellist with festival guest stars, Ensemble Epomeo, were strikingly fine.
Woods played it straight, simply delivering rather than interpreting the scores, trusting the composers to have gotten things right, and anyone within hearing distance of the performance would confirm that they had.
Somehow I have missed hearing this powerful work during long years of listening to classical music. Hearing it for the first time under the direction of so honest and intuitive a musician as Kenneth Woods was a shattering experience, leaving me speechless with awe and wonder.
The performances by the Ensemble Epomeo are beyond praise: lively, warm-toned and well balanced in excellent sound. Cellist Kenneth Woods penned the informative sleeve note. Genuine buried treasure here.
"...here the piece comes up sounding fresh, at least to my ears... I’m as pleased with the performance of the Schumann as I am with the Gál, and given the real quality of Gál’s symphony, I don’t mind that this makes about the tenth Schumann Fourth in my collection!"
Maestro Kenneth Woods and his Orchestra of the Swan play both symphonies exceedingly well...this is probably as close as we get in the music to Gal’s private adversities, but Woods does not over dramatize or over sentimentalize it. By the time the finale draws to a close, we recognize, at least in hands of Woods, a memorable and perhaps unfairly under-appreciated work.
It was gratifying to be given a chance to experience this challenging work in a reading of such heroic panache and fierce dedication: soloist, players and conductor valiantly negotiated the score's fiendish polyrhythms and labyrinthine tempo associations, whilst building a convincing case for it to be regarded as one of Saxton's finest utterances...this event was memorable for the quality of its performances and the boldness of its scheduling in equal measure
"The Orchestra of the Swan, a British chamber orchestra, plays with expressive understatement. The warm recording, at a concert, has all the qualities of a studio production. East-West fusions seem immune to the struggles of the classical music scene. This engaging album shows why." American Record Guide
"Woods proves in this recording to be a front rank conductor, capturing the feeling of sorrow and compassion of the symphony... Woods has seized on the essence of this Schumann Symphony. His reading is smooth, grand and exciting and well worth the purchase of this disc. The Gál may take a few hearings to sink in, but the Schumann is right there from the start and one of the best recordings available." FIVE STARS
The disc leaves you feeling profoundly moved as well as drained and I can hardly imagine how it must feel to play such music. This is an extremely important musical document on all counts...
The Ensemble Epomeo play all four compositions with huge commitment and brilliant flair revealing every nuance in four wonderful works for string trio. In every way this is a fantastic disc that listeners will want to hear again and again.
March 3- Avie Records release volume four in Ken’s acclaimed series of the symphonies of Robert Schumann and Hans Gál with the Orchestra of the Swan. This volume marks the first-ever complete recorded cycle of the Gál symphonies on disc
March 4- Ken conducts the English Symphony Orchestra in a program of works for string orchestra by Tippett, Elgar, Vaughan Williams and ESO composer-in-association, John McCabe
March 8- Ken conducts a special performance of Mahler’s 7th Symphony in support of Alzheimer’s research and care with the Wrexham Symphony Orchestra
March 29- Ken conducts the gala final concert of the Guildford Spring Music Festival
April 5- Ken conducts Mahler’s Fifth Symphony in Manchester- a “critic’s pick” of the week
May 5-9- Ken is Donald Macleod’s featured guest on Composer of the Week, as BBC Radio 3 turn their full attention to the music of Hans Gál for the first time, including broadcasts of many of Ken’s recorded performances of Gál’s symphonies, concerti and chamber music
June 14- Ken returns to the prestigious Round Top Festival in Texas for a celebration of the 150th birthday of Richard Strauss and a performance of Beethoven’s Second Symphony.
If you want to learn more about Mahler, why not start with Ken’s recording of Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde and Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen. [“This is a most important issue, and all Mahlerians should make its acquisition an urgent necessity.”--International Record Review]Find out more about this disc here, or listen to extracts, here.