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English Symphony Orchestra


Founded by conductor William Boughton as the English String Orchestra in 1978, the ESO soon earned an international reputation for performances of English music, made over fifty recordings and began touring regularly in Europe. Over time, the orchestra’s repertoire expanded to include the full breadth of orchestral music, and the ESO grew to become the English Symphony Orchestra. Ever since then, “ESO” has served as an acronym with a dual meaning.

The ESO has worked with a distinguished list of instrumentalists, composers and conductors, including Vernon Handley (Principal Conductor 2006-7, Nigel Kennedy, Stephen Isserlis, Daniel Hope, Michael Tippett, Nicholas Maw and Yehudi Menuhin (Principal Guest Conductor 1991-9). Kenneth Woods was appointed as the ESO’s third Principal Conductor in 2013.

We run orchestra courses for children from grade 1 onwards, and run side-by-side projects and an orchestral scholars’ scheme for young musicians. The ESO is “Orchestra-in-Association” for the Worcestershire Music Hub and has very close links with the Elgar School of Music in that county, and has just been named "Orchestra in Residence" for Worcester Live. In Herefordshire, the ESO works in strategic partnership with the Herefordshire Music Hub and the Hereford Sixth form College. Each year, the ESO also presents dozens of concerts in care homes and hospices across the Midlands, bringing the comfort of live music to those who need it most.


“… October’s performance under Kenneth Woods in the appropriately named Elgar Concert Hall at Birmingham University was a revelation… This triumph of transcription deserves to be heard worldwide.” Classical Music Magazine “Premiere of the Year--2015”

“This was a performance of great life and character which brought a real freshness to Beethoven’s vision. Kenneth Woods is clearly achieving fine results with the English Symphony Orchestra.” The Classical Reviewer

“A witty and mercurial masterpiece. Electric performances, all.” The Sunday Times

 “Plaudits, too, for Woods’s characteristically lucid and fervent performance with his own English Symphony Orchestra” Gramophone

“…the ESO play with thrilling focus and trenchancy…” MusicWeb International

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