PT103: The Power of a Premiere, with Kenneth Woods

Today we talk with conductor Kenneth Woods about expanding our understanding of Gustav Mahler by delving into the context and reactions to his world at Colorado Mahlerfest, why we must be more intentional in programming significant works from composers, and how we can gain a deeper understanding of a composers’ relationship to their music by how they revised it.

Kenneth is the Artistic Director of Colorado Mahlerfest, the English Symphony Orchestra, and the Elgar Festival. He sat down with us all the way back in 2019 in anticipation of the 2020 Mahlerfest, but as you can probably guess that never happened! So after holding onto this episode for a year and a half we’ve finally decided that it’s the right time to release it, and I’m so glad that we were able to.

Today we discuss:

  • How the purpose of the Colorado MahlerFest has evolved as Mahler grew from an unknown voice to a staple of the symphonic repertoire (9:25)
  • What’s special about MahlerFest, and why Ken flies halfway around the world to lead it each year (17:02)
  • Creative fundraising, and how MahlerFest has developed from a local event to an International Festival (28:29)
  • The best 2nd symphonies, and why classical music lists can be a great tool for attracting new audiences (35:49)
  • The 21st Century Symphony Project and commissioning significant new works (45:09)
  • How performing multiple symphonies by a single composer gives us an intimate view of their outlook on life (56:22)
  • What we can learn from comparing how Schumann and Mahler revised their symphonies (1:03:00)
  • Hans Gal: more than just the guy who edited the Brahms symphonies (1:13:11)
  • Our job as conductors presenting unfamiliar composers to audiences (1:24:21)


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