The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Notes of a Native Son — Madison native and University of Wisconsin graduate, conductor-cellist Kenneth Woods has seen his career crescendo this fall with three new recordings, international broadcasts and important concerts. Plus, Classical Revolution Madison members perform FREE Mendelssohn and Janacek this Sunday at the Fair Trade Coffee House.

December 1, 2012
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ALERT: On Sunday from 11:30 to 1 p.m. at the Fair Trade Coffee House (below), 418 State St., about 20 musicians from the Madison chapter of Classical Revolution perform a FREE program featuring Janáček’s String Quartet No. 2, Mendelssohn’s Octet in E-flat major, and more. All of the performers are members of Classical Revolution Madison Cooperative, a cooperative of musicians who, by performing in bars, cafes and other nontraditional venues, promote live classical music as a relevant and important part of every community’s cultural fabric.

fair trade coffeehouse madisonjpg

By Jacob Stockinger

It is always fun to read about a local musician who makes it into The Big Time.

Take Kenneth Woods (below), who grew up in Madison, graduated from West High School, played in the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (WYSO) and received his graduate degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music.

Woods, a prolific blogger and extremely busy performer, is clearly an impressive Man on the Move — which makes The Ear wonder when we will finally see him guest conduct the Madison Symphony Orchestra, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra or some other local group, as he once did with UW Symphony Orchestra several years ago. (At bottom, in a clip from Sir Edward Elgar‘s moving Symphony No. 1.)


Here are updates and news of Kenneth Woods, courtesy of his agent:

Kenneth Woods is enjoying the release of three new recordings over the past two months, on each playing a different part.

As cellist, Woods anchors the string trio Ensemble Epomeo, whose recording debut of the world-premiere recordings of Hans Gál’s Serenade in D and Trio in F sharp minor, Op. 104, coupled with Hans Krása’s Tanec and Passacaglia and Fugue (AVIE Records), attracted immediate international acclaim. The Irish Times called it “highly persuasive” while the San Francisco Guardian said it is  “a brilliant revelation … unforgettable … a superb performance.” “Ensemble Epomeo … play superbly individually and as a team, and with obvious commitment” was the judgment of, while Chicago’s famed WFMT radio station said simply “Wow!

Epomeo CD Gal and Krasa

Ensemble Epomeo (below), who toured this and other repertoire on the East Coast of the United States in October with performances outside of Boston, in Philadelphia and New York City, is also the subject of a recent feature in Classical Music Magazine.

ensemble epomeo 1

As Principal Guest Conductor of Orchestra of the Swan in Wales (below top), Woods conducted world premieres with a Japanese flavor on Spring Sounds, Spring Seas (MSR Classics): Concerto for Shakuhachi, Strings, Harp and Percussion by James Schlefer – himself a Grand Master on the Japanese flute who is the featured soloist – and Schlefer’s “Haru No Umi Redux,” a re-working of a traditional Japanese duet “The Sea in Spring”, “memorable music in fine performances,” according to Fanfare magazine. “The recording is top flight.”

orchestra of-the swan

spring sounds, spring seas cd

Decades before his discovery of the music of Hans Gál, Woods interest in “Entartete Musik” (what the Nazis called “Degenerate Music” and censored) led to his arrangement of the String Quartet No. 3, by Viktor Ullman (below), for string orchestra (1999). Woods studied the chamber work as a cello student at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music under Henry Meyer, long-time second violinist of the La Salle String Quartet, who, like Ullman, had been interred in Auschwitz-Birkenau but escaped at the end of the War.

Woods’ arrangement has been recorded by David Parry and the English Chamber Orchestra, and released on the Gramola label, which promotes the recuperation of works by Jewish and Austrian composers. The arrangement is also scheduled to be performed by the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra in the Musikverein’s Brahmssaal in November.

Victor Ullman

Woods’ advocacy of the music of Hans Gál manifests itself most notably in his world-premiere recordings of the composer’s symphonies paired with those of Schumann, an ongoing acclaimed cycle that has received a “Choice” in Gramophone magazine, praise from the New York Times for Woods’ “fine job of revealing the qualities” of Gál’s music, and a feature article in The Washington Post. Following releases of  Gál’s Symphony No. 4 paired with Schumann’s Second (AVIE Records AV 2231), and both of the composers’ Thirds (AVIE 2230), Woods will conduct Orchestra of the Swan in Gál’s Second – a sober, wartime symphony – and Schumann’s Fourth, in the recording studio as well as in concert in the orchestra’s Stratford-upon-Avon home in early December.

Kenneth Woods Schumann 2 Gal cover

Stateside, Woods’ Gal-Schumann recording project has been heard by millions through multiple airings on American Public Media’s “Performance Today,” including a broadcast of Schumann’s Second. The program also featured his recording of Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde in Schoenberg’s chamber arrangement, released by SOMM Recordings.

In November, Woods made his debut with the Fairfax Symphony Orchestra, conducting an all-Beethoven program, including the Overture to “Coriolanus,” the Violin Concerto (with Benjamin Beilman) and Symphony No. 2. In addition, he delivered a pre-performance lecture.

Back in the UK, also in November, Woods also continued his extraordinary Mahler project in support of Alzheimer’s research with the Wrexham Symphony Orchestra conducting the epic Third Symphony.

Gustav Mahler big

When not conducting, playing his cello, arranging, writing, broadcasting or indeed spending time with his family in his Cardiff home, Woods is actively blogging on A View from the Podium, one of today’s most-widely read and respected classical music blogs.

To learn more about Kenneth Woods visit


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