Author: Kenneth Woods

Concert review: Messiah thrills at Malvern Priory

Handel’s Messiah is a musical edifice of religious exegesis, built from notes and faith; so where better to hear a full rendition than Malvern Priory?

After all, the Priory is also a testament to rock-solid belief, and it was already 600 years old by the time of Handel. Both Handel and the Priory’s medieval builders, however, were secure in their beliefs. The building and the work complement each other; but how far can the work travel in a more secular age? Pretty far, is the answer, judging by the response of the audience and thanks, in no small part, to the excellence of the English Symphony Orchestra, the Academia Musica choir and the soloists.

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English Symphony Orchestra launch Beethoven Anniversary Celebrations with Superstar Pianist Isata Kanneh-Mason

The English Symphony Orchestra begin their year-long celebrations of composer Ludwig van Beethoven’s 250th Birthday with concerts in the spectacular new Routh Hall, Bromsgrove on 31 January and historic Shirehall, Hereford on 1 February. Making her long-awaited debut with the ESO is pianist Isata Kanneh-Mason. Ms. Kanneh-Mason will be performing Beethoven’s Third Concerto. In Bromsgrove, the ESO will couple the concerto with a performance of Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony and Ruth Gipps’ “Cringlemire Garden,” while in Hereford, they will perform Beethoven’s Eighth Symphony and Mendelssohn’s tone poem “The Fair Melusine.”

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American Record Guide on David Matthews Symphony No. 9

David Matthews’s music is neo-tonal and unmistakably British. It is immaculately crafted and fresh, the composer having rejected the modernism he grew up with, replacing it with a postmodern language of sincerity and musicality.
His Symphony 9 (2016) is based on a simple tune by his wife, which introduces the proceedings and is then fragmented and developed. II is a wild scherzo, III a lyrical slow movement with beautiful harmonic vision; bird song appears about halfway through. IV is a dance, which leads to V’s dreamy haze, followed by development of fragments of the tune, stormy drama, a transcendent return of the tune, and eventual triumph. This is entirely convincing and should please anyone interested in recent British symphonic writing.

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ESO musicians bring the art of musical storytelling to Friday Night Live at the Royal Porcelain Works

Kenneth Woods, conductor of the English Symphony Orchestra, trades baton for cello on the 22nd of November when he teams up with the ESO’s popular Leader, violinist Zoë Beyers and actor Ben Humphrey for an evening of musical storytelling as part of the Royal Porcelain Works’ Friday Night Live series in The Hall. The new concert series has quickly established itself as one of Worcester’s most popular cultural offerings, with short, informal and entertaining concerts punctuated by a generous interval for socialising.

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Fanfare Magazine on Matthews Symphony No. 9

David Matthews (b. 1943) and his older brother Colin, also a composer, were assistants to Benjamin Britten during the late 1960s and early 1970s. I was unsure of the chronology, but David wrote to me via email, “Colin took over from me as Britten’s assistant in 1970 after I’d done the job for four years and Britten thought Colin—who had helped me with the Owen Wingrave full score—should now have his chance. Colin then worked for him until he died. I didn’t give up working for Britten, altogether as a few years later I helped him with the revised score for Paul Bunyan. Britten once asked my mother, ‘Are there any more of you?’” Since then, Matthews has produced a vast body of work in traditional forms, particularly a series of 14 string quartets and as of now nine symphonies, most of which have been recorded.

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