English Symphony Orchestra

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ESO: English String Orchestra and English Symphony Orchestra
Classical orchestra
Short nameESO
Founded1978 (1978)
LocationWorcester, Worcestershire
Principal conductorKenneth Woods

The English Symphony Orchestra and the English String Orchestra (collectively abbreviated as ESO) are two iterations of a professional orchestra based in the city of Worcester, Worcestershire,[1] in the West Midlands of England.


Founded in 1978 as the English String Orchestra by conductor William Boughton,[2] the orchestra was first based in Malvern and quickly established a reputation for its performances of music in the English Romantic and national styles[3] prevalent in the early decades of the 20th century. Over time, the English String Orchestra's embrace of larger works, especially those requiring woodwind, brass or percussion, caused its adoption of the name English Symphony Orchestra to reflect its often augmented instrumentation.[4]

Partnerships with other British or British-based musicians of great renown, including Nigel Kennedy, Stephen Isserlis, Daniel Hope and John Lill helped bring the orchestra national recognition.

The orchestra came to international attention throughout the 1980s and 1990s in large part due to their series of recordings for Nimbus Records, in particular, their advocacy for the works of early- and mid- 20th C. British music by composers like Arnold Bax, Frank Bridge, Butterworth, John Ireland, Gerald Finzi and Lennox Berkeley as well as more mainstream figures like Britten, Elgar and Vaughan Williams. The ESO continue to record for Nimbus but also work with the Naxos, Avie, Somm, Toccata and Signum record labels.

Since the appointment of Kenneth Woods in 2013, the orchestra has extended their longstanding commitment to British music to include a major commitment to 21st Century British music. In addition to their own active commissioning programme, the ESO work closely with soloists, festivals and record labels to develop co-commissioning projects. In 2017, the ESO launched the 21st Century Symphony Project, and effort to reinvigorate the modern symphonic repertoire by commissioning, premiering and recording nine symphonies by nine leading composers. The project began with the premiere of Philip Sawyers' Third Symphony in 2017 and continues in 2018 with the premieres of David Matthews' Ninth Symphony and Matthew Taylor's Fifth Symphony.

Under Woods' leadership the orchestra has also taken an active role in promoting the music of composers whose music was suppressed by the Nazi's before and during World War II. This has led to influential performances and recordings of works by Ernst Krenek, Hans Gal, Michael Tippett and Viktor Ullmann.

Leading personnel[edit]

Yehudi Menuhin served as the orchestra's Principal Guest Conductor throughout the 1990s, leading the ESO on several international tours.

Conductor Vernon Handley succeed Boughton in 2006 and served as the orchestra's Principal Conductor until his death in 2008.

Kenneth Woods was appointed as the orchestra's third Principal Conductor in 2013. In 2016, his remit was expanded to Artistic Director.

Philip Sawyers is the orchestra's "John McCabe Composer-in-Association" and Matthew Sharp is Artist in Residence.

The ESO's Leader is violinist Zoe Beyers.

Premieres and commissions[edit]

Brahms arr. Kenneth Woods- Piano Quartet no. 2 in A major, arr. for Symphony Orchestra (world premiere performance and recording)

Nimrod Borenstein- Concerto for Piano, Trumpet and Strings, opus 74 (world premiere performance and recording)

Emily Doolittle- falling still for Violin and Strings (UK premiere)

Emily Doolittle- green/blue (UK Premiere)

Elgar arr. Donald Fraser- Piano Quintet arr. for Symphony Orchestra (world premiere performance and recording)

Elgar arr. Donald Fraser- Sea Pictures, version for choir and strings (world premiere)

Robert Fokkens- An Eventful Morning in London, Concerto for Violin and Chamber Orchestra (world premiere recording)

Hans Gal- Concertino for Cello and Strings (world premiere recording)

Geoffrey Gordon- Saint Blue, Concerto for Piano, Trumpet and Strings (ESO commission, world premiere performance and recording)

Jesse Jones- Smith Square Dances (Co-commission with St John's Smith square, world premiere performance)

John Joubert- Jane Eyre, An Opera (world premiere performance and recording)

Ernst Krenek- Concerto for Two Pianos (world premiere recording)

Ernst Krenek- Double Concerto for Violin, Piano and Orchestra (world premiere recording)

Ernst Krenek- Piano Concerti no.'s 1-4 (world premiere recordings)

David Matthews- Romanza for Violin and Strings (world premiere recording)

Paul Patterson- Allusions, Concerto for Two violins and Strings

Deborah Pritchard- Seven Halts on the Somme, Concerto for Trumpet, Harp and Strings (world premiere recording)

Deborah Pritchard- Wall of Water, Concerto for Violin and Strings (ESO commission, world premiere performance and recording)

Kaija Saariaho- Terra memoria (UK Premiere)

Robert Saxton- The Resurrection of the Soldiers (Co-commission/co-premiere with Presteigne Festival)

Philip Sawyers- Concerto for Trumpet, Strings and Timpani (world premiere performance and recording)

Philip Sawyers- Concerto for Violin and Orchestra (ESO commission, world premiere performance and recording)

Philip Sawyers- Elegiac Rhapsody for Trumpet and Strings in Memory of John McCabe (world premiere performance and recording)

Philip Sawyers- Fanfare (ESO commission, world premiere performance and recording)

Philip Sawyers- Songs of Loss and Regret (world premiere performance and recording)

Philip Sawyers- Symphony no. 3 (ESO commission, world premiere performance and recording)

Philip Sawyers- The Valley of Vision, Tone Poem for Orchestra (ESO commission, world premiere performance and recording)

Viktor Ullmann arr. Kenneth Woods- Chamber Symphony, arr. of String Quartet no. 3 for String Orchestra (UK premiere)

Kenneth Woods- The Ugly Duckling for Narrator and Orchestra (ESO commission, world premiere performance)

Toby Young- The Art of Dancing, Suite for Trumpet, Piano and Strings (world premiere recording)


  1. ^ "ESO Contact Page". Retrieved 20 June 2016.
  2. ^ "Founding Conductor, William Boughton". Retrieved 20 June 2016.
  3. ^ "Recording page for The Spirit Of England". Retrieved 20 June 2016.
  4. ^ "Artist page on Naxos Records". Retrieved 20 June 2016.

External links[edit]