Kenneth Woods

Mahler: Symphony No.9

for Chamber Ensemble
arr. Klaus Simon

English Symphony Orchestra
Conducted by Kenneth Woods

Music from Wyastone – Studio Concert Series
Online from 7:30pm GMT, Wednesday 7 July 2021
FREE-TO-VIEW for four days
Available afterwards through the ESO subscriber’s digital archive
The English Symphony Orchestra (ESO) will release their most ambitious digital performance to date on 7th July, when they present a performance of Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No.9 in celebration of the Austrian composer’s 161st birthday. The performance is conducted by the ESO’s Artistic Director, Kenneth Woods; one of today’s leading Mahler interpreters and authorities who also serves as Artistic Director of Colorado MahlerFest.“The symphony must be like the whole world, it must embrace everything” said composer Gustav Mahler. With this in mind, Mahler made the writing of symphonies his life’s work, hugely expanding both the scope and scale of the genre. And with some of these works requiring huge forces, Mahler’s music would seem ill-suited to the Covid era.
But a tradition of performances of Mahler’s work by small chamber ensembles dates back over one hundred years to the Society for Private Musical Performances in Vienna, where Mahler’s friend and protégé, Arnold Schoenberg, organised performances of several of Mahler’s major works for groups of 9-15 players. An arrangement of the Symphony No.9 was made by composer and conductor Klaus Simon in 2012.
“Like most Mahlerians, the Ninth Symphony holds a most special place in my heart,” says conductor Kenneth Woods. “In this case, the second lockdown meant that when we gathered in March, it was the first time the orchestra and I had met since November. The Ninth is among the most challenging works ever written – as difficult as it is beautiful. To tackle it as our first project in months was a daunting challenge, and we were all a little unsure what to expect before the sessions began.”
“Once we finally got together, and I gave that first upbeat, it only took a few bars to realise that everyone was on absolute top form, and that there was something magical in the air”, he explained. “After months of silence and isolation, we were able to come together and play some of the most incredible music ever written, and, thanks to everyone’s preparation and professionalism, the work’s many difficulties seemed to melt away, and those three days were just a joy from beginning to end.”
“…the most glorious he ever wrote.”
Composed in the summer of 1909 in Mahler’s summer house in Toblach, the Symphony No. 9 was Mahler’s last completed work, and the composer did not live to see it performed. It has since come to be viewed as possibly the ‘Everest’ of symphonic music. Mahler’s friend, composer Alban Berg, wrote of the piece that “I have once more played through Mahler’s Ninth. The first movement is the most glorious he ever wrote. It expresses an extraordinary love of the earth, for Nature. The longing to live on it in peace, to enjoy it completely, to the very heart of one’s being, before death comes, as irresistibly it does.”
In the days leading up to the premiere, the ESO are releasing a series of short films about the work hosted by Kenneth Woods. These will be available alongside programme notes, trailers and the performance at

How to listen
Access to the concert is via the event website:
The performance premieres on Wednesday 7 July at 7:30pm and is available free-to-view for four days and afterwards through the ESO digital archive where unlimited access to subscribers offers the complete archive of virtual performances for supporters who donate a minimum of £5/month:

ESO Future plans
13-17 August 2021
The Music from Wyastone – Studio Concert Series continues with a complete performance of Béla Bartók’s one-act opera, Bluebeard’s Castle, with soprano April Fredrick and baritone David Stout.

The orchestra makes its long-awaited return to live concerts on 28 July at the Three Choirs Festival in a programme which pairs Beethoven’s Symphony No.7 with the world premiere of Steve Elcock’s Symphony No.8 and the first performance of the new wind ensemble version of Emily Doolittle’s Reedbirds.  The orchestra’s What’s On page provides details of future plans: