For Immediate Release








As the English Symphony Orchestra (ESO) continues its resurgence under Principal Conductor Kenneth Woods, it’s fitting that the ensemble, based in Elgar’s hometown of Worcester, presents An Elgar Pilgrimage, a four-day festival in October, celebrating the composer’s life and music. Repertoire ranging from Elgar’s earliest to his last, some of his most iconic works, music by contemporaries, new commissions and world-premieres will be performed in a trinity of locations associated with Elgar: the Cathedral in Hereford where he lived at Plas Gwyn from 1904 – 1912, The Forum Theatre in Malvern where he lived from 1891 – 1904, and in the hall which bears his name at the University of Birmingham where he was appointed the University’s first Professor of Music in 1905.

(Composer Donald Fraser)

“By celebrating the music of Elgar and his legacy across the Midlands,” says Woods, “we are also celebrating the orchestra’s rich history with this music and our own pride of place as the professional orchestra of Elgar country. Given that Elgar’s music, which I’ve loved and performed all my life, is so central to British musical discourse, it’s incredibly exciting to be able to share with our audiences a programme that gives our listeners a chance to hear some of his greatest music from new perspectives.”

The curtain rises on An Elgar Pilgrimage on Wednesday, 7 October at Hereford Cathedral and brings together three of the region’s leading musical organisations: select members of the Three Choirs Festival Chorus; Academia Musica, the scholars choir of the Hereford Sixth Form College; and the English String Orchestra conducted by Kenneth Woods. The programme features two world-premieres, a virtuoso work for strings by Elgar, and an audience favourite by one of Elgar’s English contemporaries. The concert opener, Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis by Ralph Vaughan Williams was first performed in 1910 as part of the Three Choirs Festival. The ESO’s composer-in-association Philip Sawyers’ Songs of Loss and Regret was commissioned last year to commemorate the 100thanniversary of the outbreak of World War I; featuring soprano soloist April Fredrick, the work receives its world-premiere on this concert. Elgar’s Introduction and Allegro, scored for string quartet and string orchestra, was composed in 1905 for the newly-formed London Symphony Orchestra. Elgar’s string writing has inspired the Elgar Pilgrimage’s Guest Composer Donald Fraser, who lived and worked for many years at Brinkwells, Elgar’s Sussex cottage. The climax of the Elgar Pilgrimage’s opening concert is the premiere of Fraser’s arrangement of the iconicSea Pictures for choir and string orchestra. “What Donald has done is quite incredible,” remarks Woods. “He’s not added, changed or removed a single note of Elgar’s work, but has created a new, flexible sound world between two homogenous ensembles.” The performance continues the successful collaboration between the ESO and Academia Musica, who in the spring won critical acclaim for their performance of Mozart’s Requiem at London’s St. John’s Smith Square, and marks a renewed association with the Three Choirs Festival.

Soprano April Fredrick

Woods and the ESO return to the Malvern Theatres on Thursday, October 8, to perform one of Elgar’s earliest works as well as one of his most revered, both put into context alongside a great 19th century symphony. TheFroissart Overture was Elgar’s first large-scale orchestral work. Written in 1890, it was commissioned for that year’s Three Choirs Festival. Twenty years later, Elgar penned a work that became an instant hit, his Violin Concerto. This performance will feature Alexander Sitkovetsky, a protégé of Yehudi Menuhin, former Principal Guest Conductor of the ESO, who was indelibly associated with the work, having made the legendary recording with the composer on the podium. The influence on Elgar of continental European composers will be heard in one of his favourite works, Brahms’ Symphony No. 3, a work that served as the focus of his first lecture at the University of Birmingham.

Elgar and Brahms will be side by side again for a chamber music concert on Friday, 9 October, at the University of Birmingham’s Elgar Concert Hall. ESO guest artists violinists Alexander Sitkovetsky and Tamsin Waley-Cohen, violist Louise Lansdown, cellist Matthew Sharp and pianist Clare Hammond, will come together to perform Brahms’ Piano Quartet in G minor, Op. 25, the first of his three works in the genre, and Elgar’s Piano Quintet in A minor, Op. 85, one of the composer’s latest works that was written at Brinkwells in 1919.

Elgar’s Piano Quintet features again in An Elgar Pilgrimage’s closing concert on Saturday, 10 October at the Elgar Concert Hall, this time in a world-premiere performance of Donald Fraser’s orchestration of the work. Another arrangement opens the programme, that by Elgar of J. S. Bach’s Fantasia and Fugue in C minor, one of the composer’s final compositions. In between comes
Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen, the first great song cycle written by Gustav Mahler, who conducted Elgar’s Sea Pictures and Enigma Variations during his final season as Music Director of the New York Philharmonic in 1910-11.

An Elgar Pilgrimage is supported in part by Arts Council England.

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All media enquiries, interview and image request, please contact Melanne Mueller,, +44 (0) 20 8698 6933

For further information about An Elgar Pilgrimage, please visit

For further information about Kenneth Woods, please visit

For further information about the English Symphony Orchestra, please visit


English Symphony Orchestra
English String Orchestra
Kenneth Woods – Principal Conductor
Donald Fraser – Guest Composer

7 – 10 October 2015
Hereford, Malvern, Birmingham


Wednesday, 7 October

7:30 pm
(pre-concert talk at 6:30 pm)
Ralph Vaughan Williams Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis
Philip Sawyers Songs of Loss and Regret (world premiere)
April Fredrick soprano
Edward Elgar Introduction and Allegro for Strings
Elgar/Fraser Sea Pictures (world premiere of new version for choir and strings)
English String Orchestra
Academia Musica
Three Choirs Voices
Kenneth Woods conductor

Hereford Cathedral
5 College Cloisters, Cathedral Close
Hereford HR1 2NG
Tickets £25, £20, £18, £15. Seniors 25% discount, children and students 50% discount

Hereford Courtyard Theatre Box Office:, 01432 340 555
Thursday, 8 October

7:45 pm
(pre-concert talk at 6:30 pm)
Elgar Overture “Froissart”, Op. 19
Johannes Brahms Symphony No. 3 in F major, Op. 90
Elgar Violin Concerto, Op. 61
Alexander Sitkovetsky violin
Malvern Theatres
Grange Road
Malvern, Worcestershire WR14 3HB
English Symphony Orchestra

Kenneth Woods conductor

Tickets £22.96 – £33.04 (inclusive of 12% booking fee)

Malvern Theatres Box Office:, 01684 892 277
Friday, 9 October

7:30 pm (pre-concert talk at 6:45 pm)

Brahms Piano Quartet in G minor, Op. 25
Elgar Piano Quintet  in A minor, Op. 85

Elgar Concert Hall
University of Birmingham

Bramall Music Building,
Birmingham B15 2TT
Alexander Sitkovetsky and Tamsin Waley-Cohen violins
Louise Lansdown viola
Matthew Sharp cello
Clare Hammond piano

Tickets £20, £15, £10

Town Hall & Symphony Hall Box Office:, 0121 345 0600



Saturday, 10 October

4:00 pm (pre-cocnert talk at 3:15 pm)
J. S. Bach/Elgar Fantasia and Fugue in C minor, Op. 86
Mahler Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen (Songs of a Wayfarer)
Njabulo Madlala baritone
Elgar/Fraser Symphonic Realisation of Piano Quintet in A minor, Op. 84 (world premiere)
Elgar Concert Hall

University of Birmingham

Bramall Music Building,
Birmingham B15 2TT
Tickets £20, £15, £10
Town Hall & Symphony Hall Box Office:, 0121 345 0600



Kenneth Woods has been appointed Artistic Director of the Colorado MahlerFest. He is only the second Artistic Director in the festival’s 28-year history and succeeds Founding Artistic Director Robert Olson. Woods will oversee his first festival, MahlerFest XXIX, in May 2016.

Of his appointment, Woods remarks, “I’m thrilled and humbled to be invited to steer the festival’s ongoing exploration of one of the greatest composers of all time. I’ve always been impressed by the sophistication of MahlerFest’s programming and presentation, not to mention the musical standards attained by its participants. I must extend enormous congratulations to Bob Olson for everything he has achieved. The complexity and scale of some tasks can only be fully appreciated once you’ve done them yourself, and as someone who has put together a few crazy Mahler projects of my own over the years, I know something about the kind of heroic effort Bob has made to build and sustain this festival. I take very seriously my responsibility to keep the torch he has lit blazing brightly for many years to come.”

Founded by conductor Robert Olson in 1988, the Boulder-based Colorado MahlerFest is an annual celebration of the life and music of Gustav Mahler. Throughout one week every May, the festival explores Mahler through symposia, exhibits, films and the performance of a major symphonic work by the composer. MahlerFest is currently in the midst of its third cycle of Mahler’s symphonic compositions. In 2005, MahlerFest received the Gold Medal of the Vienna-based International Gustav Mahler Society, an honor so far bestowed on only one other American organization, the New York Philharmonic.

Gustav Mahler’s music has been a lifelong source of inspiration for Kenneth Woods, and has played an important part in his career. He has conducted acclaimed performances of the symphonies and songs across the Americas and Europe. His first recording of Mahler’s music, Schoenberg’s chamber ensemble versions of Das Lied von der Erde and Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen (Somm Records, 2011), received an IRR Outstanding rosette from International Record Review. Off the podium, Woods is in demand as an essayist and speaker on Mahler’s life and music. He has given talks and participated in panel discussions on Mahler for the BBC and NPR, and was the official blogger of The Bridgewater Hall’s Mahler in Manchester series in 2010-11. In his native US, Woods achieved national media recognition as conductor of the Pendleton-based Oregon East Symphony for staging Redneck Mahler, an event that galvanized the community of a small, western Rodeo town.

With its combination of conducting, symposia, pre-concert lectures, films, community engagement and blog posts, MahlerFest’s format plays perfectly into Woods’ multifarious hands. “For me,” he says, “Mahler has a singular creative voice. His music should be experienced as an immersive, transformative experience.”


“This is a most important issue, and all Mahlerians should make its acquisition an urgent necessity.” International Record Review

“a richly balanced performance that easily stands out” Gramophone Magazine

“gives Mahler the ride of his life.” The Oregonian

“something that every lover of Mahler should hear.” MusicWeb International

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For any media enquiries, interview and image requests, please contact Melanne Mueller,, +44 (0) 20 8698 6933 or +1 917 907 2785

For more information about Kenneth Woods please visit

For more information about the Colorado MahlerFest please visit

About Kenneth Woods
Kenneth Woods is Artistic Director and Principal Conductor of the English Symphony Orchestra, a post he assumed in 2013, succeeding Vernon Handley.

Hailed by the Washington Post as a “true star” of the podium, Woods has worked with many orchestras of international distinction, and has appeared on the stages of some of the world’s leading music festivals. His work on the concert platform and in the recording studio has led to numerous broadcasts on BBC Radio 3, National Public Radio, and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

As Principal Guest Conductor of Stratford-upon-Avon-based Orchestra of the Swan (2010-2014), Woods made numerous acclaimed recordings, including the first-ever cycle of the Symphonies of Hans Gál (AVIE).

Woods’ unique gifts have been widely acknowledged by some of today’s leading conductors. In 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.”

A widely read writer and frequent broadcaster, Woods’ blog, A View from the Podium, is one of the 25 most popular classical music blogs in the world. He has provided commentary for the BBC Proms, and has spoken on Mahler on NPR’s All Things Considered and BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme.

Classical Music Magazine Feature on ABMC Artist, Simon Desbruslais

The April, 2015 issue of Classical Music Magazine has a special Brass and Wind focus, starring ABMC’s own trumpet superstar, Simon Desbruslais.

Included is a look ahead at Simon’s forthcoming recoding projects and a preview of the world premiere of Geoffrey Gordon’s new concertpiece for trumpet, piano and strings, Saint Blue. That performance will take place with Simon, pianist Clare Hammond and ABMC artists, Kenneth Woods and the English String Orchestra in Elgar Concert Hall, Birmingham on the 13th of May, 2015.

Concert details are here.


(click on the images to see a full-sized version)

CM Desbruslais Brass and Wind cover




CM Desbruslais Brass and Wind recording feature