DEADLINE EXTENDED – Applications being accepted through 4 November
Some bursaries/scholarships may be available. Enquire in your application.


The English Symphony Orchestra is pleased to announce a new two-day conducting masterclass taking place 21-22 November, 2023 at the Royal Porcelain Works in Worcester.

Eight participants will have the opportunity to work with the musicians of one  of the most long-established professional string orchestras in Europe, the English String Orchestra, and their Principal Artist, violinist Zoë Beyers. Classes will be by Kenneth Woods (Artistic Director and Conductor of ESO).

Repertoire includes

Hans Gál – Concertino for Violin and Strings (with Zoë Beyers)
Mieczysław Weinberg – Concerto for Violin and Strings (with Zoë Beyers)
Dmitri Shostakovich arr. Rudolf Barshai – Chamber Symphony Opus 118a (Arr. of String Quartet No. 10)
Viktor Ullmann arr. Kenneth Woods – Chamber Symphony Opus 46a

Course Fee – £1350/participant (payable in two tranches, due 3 November and 17 November )

Schedule (All UK time)

19 November – 11AM- 5 PM Zoom Study session
21 November 1:30PM-4:30 PM and 5:30PM to 8:30 PM Masterclass sessions (Ullmann and Shostakovich)
22 November 1030AM-1:30PM and 2:30PM-5:30PM Masterclass sessions (Weinberg and Gál with Ms. Beyers)
23 November 130Pm-6PM and 7:30 PM (Optional) Rehearsal and Concert in Worcester Guildhall, participants welcome to observe and attend

To Apply

Submit a CV and link to recent footage of your conducting. Additional recommendations and resources are optional.

DEADLINE EXTENDED – Applications being accepted through 4 November


Questions? Email

About the Faculty

Principal Conductor of the English Symphony Orchestra since 2013, Kenneth Woods has long been one of the most respected independent conducting pedagogues of his generation. He was the founding director of the Rose City International Conductors’ Workshop in Portland, Oregon, established the Mahler Conducting Fellowship at Colorado MahlerFest and in 2022, initiated a new series of masterclasses at the English Symphony Orchestra. He has taught guest masterclasses at the Ulster Orchestra, the Royal College of Music, the Royal Welsh College of Music, University of Wisconsin, Boston University, Scotia Festival of Music and others. His students include some of today’s most celebrated and influential podium leaders. This workshop offers participants a special opportunity to work with Woods in an area of repertoire that he is particularly closely associated with. As a leading advocate for the music suppressed by totalitarian regimes, he made the first orchestral recording of the music of Holocaust refugee Hans Gál, including the Concertino for Violin and Strings, and went on to make the first complete recording of the Symphonies of Gál. As a cellist, he gave what is believed to be the US premiere of Viktor Ullmann’s Third string Quartet. His arrangement of that work for string orchestra has since been recorded by the English Chamber Orchestra and the English Symphony Orchestra and receives its Concertgebouw debut in 2023.

South-African born Leader and Principal Artist of the ESO Zoë Beyers has established a reputation as one of the finest violinists of her generation.  She is based in the UK and performs as soloist, chamber musician, director and orchestral leader across the world.  She also serves as Leader of the BBC Philharmonic and First Violinist of the Dante String Quartet.

Zoë is a member of the internationally renowned Hebrides Ensemble, and also performs, broadcasts and records with the Nash Ensemble, Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, the Scottish Ensemble, and I Musicanti.  She has collaborated closely with Francois Leleux, Stephen Osborne, Lars Vogt, Elisabeth Leonskaja and Alexander Janiczek, and composers Helen Grime, Huw Watkins, Oliver Knussen, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies and Sir James Macmillan.  Her 2017 recording of Maxwell Davies’s late chamber works with the Hebrides Ensemble, (‘The Last Island’/Delphian), featured on BBC Radio 3 and attracted top ranking reviews in The Times, The Guardian and BBC Music Magazine. In 2018, Zoë toured Israel and perform at London’s Wigmore Hall with the Nash Ensemble, record a disc of Scottish composer Nigel Osborne’s chamber works and tour Austria with the Hebrides Ensemble.

As an orchestral leader, Zoë appears with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, the BBC Philharmonic, Symphony and Scottish Symphony Orchestras, the Philharmonia, the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and the Aurora Orchestra.  This season she will regularly guest lead the Orquesta Nacional de España at the invitation of maestro Juanjo Mena. She features as leader on many highly regarded recordings by Andris Nelsons, Juano Mena and John Storgards, most recently on discs of de Falla and Ginastera with Mena and the BBC Philharmonic for Chandos. 2018’s BBC Proms saw Zoë lead the BBC Symphony Orchestra under Sakari Oramo and Karina Canellakis, the BBC Philharmonic under Juanjo Mena and give two performances of Stravinsky’s L’Histoire du Soldat with the Hebrides Ensemble.

Zoë is dedicated to performing the music of contemporary composers and is involved in the commissioning and premiering of several new works.  She also has a passionate interest in education, teaching at the Birmingham Conservatoire and coaching violinists and ensembles at the start of their careers.  She is proud to be involved in ARCO, a distance learning collaboration between Birmingham Conservatoire and students in deprived areas of South Africa.

About the Music

Music for Humans Programme Three – Desire for Life

Dmitri Shostakovich arr. Barshai – Chamber Symphony opus 118a
Mieczysław Weinberg – Concertino for Violin and Strings
Hans Gál – Concertino for Violin and Strings
– Zoe Beyers, violin
Viktor Ullmann- Chamber Symphony for Strings

“All that I would stress is that Theresienstadt has helped, not hindered, me in my musical work, that we certainly did not sit down
by the waters of Babylon and weep, and that our desire for culture was matched by our desire for life; and I am convinced that all
those who have striven, in life and in art, to wrest form from resistant matter will bear me out.”
~ Viktor Ullmann, 1944

Where Shostakovich’s Fifth Symphony bears witness to the nightmarish era of the Stalinist terrors, his Tenth String Quartet (heard here in Rudolf Barshai’s arrangement as the Chamber Symphony opus 118a) comes from the early years of the Brezhnev era, when a newly repressive regime put an abrupt halt to the reforms of Kruschev. Shostakovich dedicated this deeply-personal work to his closest musical confidant, the Polish-Jewish refugee composer Mieczysław Weinberg. Weinberg fled Nazi persecution in Poland, where the rest of his family were burned alive, to the Soviet Union, where he spent his early years in a series of refugee camps, before Shostakovich’s interventions got him permission to move to the capital. Soviet anti-Semitism led to Weinberg being jailed in the final years of the Stalin regime, and again, it was Shostakovich whose influence led to him being released. Weinberg’s music is close in spirit to that of his more famous friend, but deeply imbued with the spirit of Jewish, Moravian and Eastern European folk music. Just as Dvořák had brought Czech elements to the Austro-German traditions, Weinberg brought the music of his heritage into the otherwise restrictive world of Soviet Realism.

Hans Gál also knew the misery of exile, and, like Weinberg, experienced the indignity of detention by his adopted country when he was interned by the UK government as a so-called ‘enemy alien’ following his settlement here. With Europe again wracked by refugee crises caused by wars in Ukraine and the Middle East, contemplation of our historic treatment of refugees and humanising them through deep engagement with their creative work offers a pathway to a more empathetic community. The programme concludes with another transcription of a string quartet, Kenneth Woods’ acclaimed arrangement of Viktor Ullmann’s Third String Quartet, written in the Terezin detention camp near Prague where he, along with thousands of other Jews, was held by the Nazis prior to his murder in Auschwitz in October 1944. Music for Humans engagement with the work of these composers seeks us to help today’s audiences to understand the full humanity and depth of suffering of those affected by the wars and oppression of our own time.

Our Artists and this Music: 

  • “This was a stimulating concert. The Weinberg was the highlight for me but all the other pieces – and performances – were excellent. Under the guiding hand of Kenneth Woods, the English Symphony Orchestra played with skill and commitment and the well-constructed programme gave us the opportunity to hear them in a good range of music. This programme is a discerning way to mark International Holocaust Memorial Day.” John Quinn, Seen and Heard International
  • “Miecyslaw Weinberg is the composer of the moment, and his Concertino for Violin and Strings proved a wonderful find. Its opening melody is as gorgeous as that of Samuel Barber’s Violin Concerto, there is an equally gorgeous slow movement, and the finale is a bittersweet waltz. There is something of a Jewish melancholy throughout the work which also characterises the Finzi Clarinet Concerto. Zoe Beyers was the persuasive, virtually ever-present soloist, Woods’ ESO collaborating with empathy.” Chris Morley, Birmingham Post
  • “…Woods directs a highly polished account but the orchestral playing throughout is most assured.”  Gramophone Magazine on Gal Violin Concerti and Triptych