Press Reviews

Anna Jackson on our November 2018 concert in Stokesley Methodist Church (D&S Times):

This concert featured an imaginative programme on the theme of “Conflict and Resolution”. It started with the youthful optimism of Mendelssohn’s Incidental Music to a Midsummer Nights Dream. Here the personal conflicts between families, lovers, husbands and wives are lightly expressed and the resolution into harmonious relationships movingly depicted in the Nocturne. This music is very well-known, but it is not easy to bring off. In spite of a few blemishes the overall effect was very creditable.

This was followed without a break by Banks of Green Willow by George Butterworth, who was killed on the Somme in 1916. It is based on two English folk songs and tells a tragic tale of love and sacrifice. From the opening clarinet statement of the folk melody, played with disarming simplicity, to the searing climax this was a convincing performance.

The emotional core of the concert was Shostakovich’s Chamber Symphony, a version of his string quartet no.8 arranged, with the composer’s approval, for string orchestra. It was composed in a brief 3 days of white-hot inspiration in Dresden in 1946, in response to the shocking devastation he saw there, which reminded him of the horrors he had witnessed in Leningrad during the war. It is dedicated to “All victims of war and fascism” and is deeply personal and passionate. The orchestra played it with utter dedication and conviction and the emotional charge between players and audience was palpable. There were excellent solos by the principal cellist, Jeremy Harbottle, and the leader, Joanne McKenna.

Finally, Barber’s Adagio for Strings was an ideal balm, its gentle arching melody releasing the pain of the Shostakovich. The orchestra captured the peace and beauty but were not afraid to build the tension when demanded nor to hold the dramatic silence which cuts the music off abruptly, making the final tranquil statement of the theme all the more effective.


Irene MacDonald on our March 2017 concert in Stokesley Methodist Church (D&S Times):

Stokesley Methodist Church was absolutely packed for the Cleveland Chamber Orchestra directed by Tim Jackson. Even the gallery which, fortunately, is built with good old Victorian solidity, was full to capacity.

There was a heart-warming statement in the programme pointing out that the only charge made is for the tickets – everything else is free – programmes, refreshments (gorgeous cakes!), a free prize draw and free online booking. All this and wonderful music too! What’s not to like?

Beethoven’s Coriolanus opened the concert with tremendous energy and drama, summoning up images and concepts of serious mental conflict and turmoil.

Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No.3 in C Minor, Op.37 introduced us to the great piano music of the master. What could he not do? The soloist, Robert Markham, did full justice to the concerto. It starts in typically strong Beethoven orchestral style leading in to the pianist who follows the refrain established by the orchestra. A wonderful sound, great conducting by Jackson and a beautiful performance by Markham, with a particularly fine cadenza.

Beethoven’s Symphony No.7 in A major is tuneful and energetic, engaging all the musicians almost all of the time. The whole concert certainly was a rich, brilliant tour de force for the orchestra inspired by Jackson’s great conducting.


Irene MacDonald on our December 2016 concert in Stokesley Methodist Church (D&S Times):

A near capacity audience almost filled the nicely warm Stokesley Methodist Church on this chilly December evening. What could be better – a good seating position in a comfortable venue with the anticipation of great music to come!

The programme started with St. Paul’s Suite by Gustav Holst who, would you believe, supported himself when a student by playing trombone on Blackpool pier! He also had a life-long interest in introducing music to young people, and the this piece was written for the London girls’ school where he taught music.

This suite is a varied interesting work in 4 short movements, appealing to a young audience. It is full of life and variety, with some clever effects when one section of the orchestra is playing against another and two melodies play alongside each other in conflicting tempi.   Conducting was well handled by David Greed.

Dvorak’s Nocturne in B major op. 40 has been described as “a little gem”, and it is. As the programme says, the sweet sweeping surge of music “draws us in”. Apparently starting its life as the central movement of an abandoned string quartet, this section was retained and later developed as this beautiful nocturne.

In the interval which followed, the gorgeous free cakes and drinks provided by the Orchestra were much appreciated. The in the second half David Greed conducted and played solo violin in Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons, a highly descriptive work, showcasing the violin. This was a very fine performance by Greed.

The speed and dexterity of the players were very impressive, and the start of Autumn where the solo violin and the cello play together was enhanced by actually seeing it performed. The harpsichord added period flavour to marvellous bowing by the whole ensemble, while the solo work of David Greed was of an exceptional standard and he was presented with a bouquet to rapturous applause.

Irene MacDonald


Irene MacDonald on our March 2016 concert in Stokesley Methodist Church (D&S Times):

There was a lovely buzz of excitement from the capacity audience as the instruments tuned up with trills, long notes and scales, and then the hush, before Mozart’s brilliant Idomeneo Overture, which fully brought out the strengths of the Orchestra.

An absolute joy was the performance of Philip Cull in Richard Strauss’s Concerto for Oboe and Small Orchestra, written in 1945 when the composer was over 80 years of age. This work has been likened to ‘a golden Phoenix rising from the ashes of a devastating war’. It certainly is a thing of great beauty and joy, and the orchestra achieved some lovely mellow tones supporting the solo oboe in response to Tim Jackson’s precise and expressive conducting style. The final movement has everything – drama and soaring, high-spirited melody. It was applauded to the rafters – a tour de force!

Following the interval when free refreshments were served in the schoolroom, including delicious cakes, we were treated to Mendelssohn’s Symphony No.4 in A major “Italian”. Again, this was a strong performance, with all the joy and sunshine we associate with the work, full of beautiful melodies exuberantly expressed and hugely pleasurable. Tim Jackson brought out all the light and glitter of the music – a superb performance.

The next programme will include Piano Concerto No.2 by Shostakovich. The venue has a very fine piano, on long term loan from Mr. Jackson, so this should be a treat not to be missed!


Linda Wright on our March 2015 concert (Darlington and Stockton Times):
This enjoyable concert by the Cleveland Chamber Orchestra under the baton of their long-time conductor, Tim Jackson, began with the Caliph of Baghdad, a happy-go-lucky little overture by Boieldieu – even the players were smiling.   The soloist was a well-known face at the piano, Barbara White. She bustled her way through Mozart’s concerto 23 in A major competently dealing with runs and arpeggios in her usual lively manner.

After an interval where the audience was gratified to receive cups or tea or coffee and home-made cakes in the back room, we were called back to hear Ian Denley on flute and a smaller orchestra to enjoy a performance of Bach’s B minor Suite. Space being at a premium at this very full concert, it was a shame he was not placed further forward to project his brilliant playing.

The finale was an accomplished performance by the entire ensemble plus extras of the Pulcinella Suite by Igor Stravinsky.   it was an on-the-edge performance by every player – solo strings, marvellous woodwind, really happy brass including trumpet, trombone and double bass sharing a duet.