The Art of Storytelling

Recorded at Wyastone Concert Hall, Monmouth, on 30th & 31st July 2020

Kenneth Woods, Conductor

English Symphony Orchestra



Kile Smith  The Bremen Town Musicians
Tom Kraines  Hansel and Gretel
David Yang  Lubin from Chelm
Jay Reise  The Warrior Violinist
Kenneth Woods  The Ugly Duckling

Available from 1800 GMT 13th November 2020

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Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf has been a beloved staple of orchestras around the world since it was written in 1936, but surely a new century invites new storytelling works for young people?

This project presents world premiere recordings and broadcast of five exception works for narrator and orchestra. From the cheeky humour of the Brothers’ Grimm to the touching tale of Hans Christian Andersen’s Ugly Duckling, and from the Jewish humour of Lubin from Chelm to the ancient Egyptian tale of The Warrior Violinist, this is classic family entertainment for the modern age at its finest, a powerful synthesis of great literature and great music.

About the Music

Kile Smith – The Bremen Town Musicians
The music of Kile Smith is acclaimed nationally and internationally for its strong voice, sheer beauty, and “profoundly direct emotional appeal.” Kile Smith’s The Arc in the Sky  received a 2020 Grammy nomination for Best Choral Performance, and his Canticle helped win the 2020 Best Classical Producer Grammy.

Smith’s adaptation of the Brothers’ Grimm’s famous story about a band of animal musicians uses the whole range of the orchestra to bring his vivid menagerie to life. Sprinkled with musical wit and catchy melodic ideas, this is music sure to bring a smile to one’s face.

Tom Kraines – Hansel and Gretel
Cellist Thomas Kraines has forged a multifaceted career, equally comfortable with avant-garde improvisation, new music, and traditional chamber music and solo repertoire. n accomplished composer, his works have been performed by artists such as pianists Awadagin Pratt and Wayman Chin, violinists Corey Cerovsek and Jennifer Frautschi, and sopranos Maria Jette and Ilana Davidson.

Kraines turns the Brothers’ Grimms’ most quintessentially German tale into a playful romp through the history of German Romantic music of the 19th and 20th Centuries, with witty hat-tips to Weber, Wagner, Strauss and Schoenberg and others. Sprinkled with mischievous wit, this is a tour-de-force for both orchestra and storyteller

David Yang – Lubin from Chelm
Unholy offspring of a Chinese landscape photographer and Jewish yenta from Brooklyn, violist and composer David Yang has collaborated with members of the Audubon, Borromeo, Brentano, Lark, and Tokyo String Quartets, amongst others. David was raised in New York City and is currently Artistic Director of the Newburyport Chamber Music Festival.

An active advocate of new music, he is also leader of the Philadelphia-based children’s music troupe Auricolae (

In this cheeky re-telling of the old English folk tale, Lazy Jack, Yang makes a fresh contribution to the rich legacy of “Chelm stories” which have delighted young Jewish listeners for generations. Bringing together slapstick humour, brilliant Yiddish wordplay and virtuosic Klezmer-tinged music, this laugh out loud musical storytelling for families of all backgrounds.

Jay Reise – The Warrior Violinist
Award-winning composer Jay Reise wrote both the music and libretto for his opera Rasputin which was commissioned by the late Beverly Sills and premiered by the New York City Opera in 1988. The work was described in The Washington Times as “a spellbinding, challenging and profoundly beautiful creation.” Reise served as Professor of Music Composition at the University of Pennsylvania for many years, mentoring a generation of leading young composers. His music is widely loved for Reise’s rich palate of musical colours and gift for melody.

The Warrior Violinist is Reise’s re-imagining of one of the world’s oldest folk tales, The Black Kight, whose roots go back over 5,000 years to ancient Egypt. It tells the tragic tale of a young man, in Reise’s version a young violinist, who goes to war to prove his worthiness to the princess he loves, but when he returns triumphant to claim his prize, he is so changed by war that his unrecognisable to all he left behind. The piece includes a major solo violin part, played in these performances by the ESO’s Leader, Zoë Beyers.

Kenneth Woods – The Ugly Duckling
ESO Artistic Director Kenneth Woods has had a lifelong interest in composition, song writing and improvisation, and wrote his first pieces before his 10th birthday. He is also an accomplished arranger and orchestrator, whose recent projects include his orchestration of David Yang’s Lubin from Chelm and the Brahms Piano Quartet in A Major, which was chosen as one of the 10 Best Classical Recordings of 2018 by The Arts Desk.

When an aging Hans Christian Andersen was asked “why have you not written an autobiography?” he answered simply, “I have. It is called The Ugly Duckling.” Andresen’s children’s novella is one of the great literary works of the 19th Century, a masterpiece which embraces the whole of the human journey through life from the most agonising moments of rejection and self-loathing to the euphoria of true self-acceptance. Woods’ music is both Romantic and modern, evoking a natural world both nurturing and threatening. The forthcoming film of The Ugly Duckling incorporates stunning illustrations of Woods’ piece done by the Polish-American violinist, composer, poet and artist, Wanda Sobiesak.