July 19th 2014

Scarborough Symphony Orchestra gave their final concert of the season on Saturday July 19th at Queen St Central Hall. The large audience testified to the growing popularity of the 50-strong orchestra, whose standard continues to rise, under their hard-working and highly professional conductor Shaun Matthew. 
The concert opened with the Overture to Glinka's 'Life for the Tsar', which is a lively curtain-raiser with a distinctly Russian flavour. The second half consisted of Dvorak's Symphony No.7. Many (including Dvorak himself) consider this to be his finest symphony, written at a time when the Czech nation was struggling to achieve independence; "God grant," he said, "that this Czech music will move the world!" Plenty of lively Czech flavouring here. The work is a challenging one to perform, and Shaun had the orchestra well under control throughout, producing excellent contrasts of dynamics from the orchestra. There were outstanding contributions from all sections of the orchestra, ably led as always by Tony Mason.
The highlight of the programme was Sibelius's Violin Concerto. The only concerto he wrote, it reflects the composer's passion for the instrument and his fascination with its technical limits. The soloists in this demanding concerto was Eva Thorarinsdottir, a most accomplished young player, originally from Iceland, though trained en route at Manchester's Royal Northern College of Music. Playing from memory, she surmounted the technical difficulties with graceful and unaffected ease, despite the heat. Shaun ensured that the orchestra never over-powered the soloist, and the sound Eva produced was wonderfully warm throughout as she alternated between the lyrical and the virtuosic. The prolonged applause in the hall was almost equalled by the vigorous applause she received in the car-park as she left ! A truly memorable performance. 
The orchestra's next concert will be on November 8th, and features the Bruch Violin Concerto.

Review by Frank James

May 3rd 2014

The Scarborough Symphony Orchestra’s concert at Queen Street Central Hall on Saturday May 3rd was an unqualified success. The popular overture, “Romeo and Juliet", by Tchaikovsky, produced full-blooded sounds from the orchestra, well-disciplined as always by their conductor Shaun Matthew.  
In the Clarinet Concerto by the 20th century English composer Gerald Finzi, the soloist was Jonathan Sage, enjoying a return visit to Scarborough. The orchestra - strings only here - coped well with their sometimes challenging parts. Finzi makes considerable demands of the clarinet, using the full range of this expressive instrument, and the soloist, playing from memory, gave a stunningly expressive performance, with seemingly effortless breath control. The ovation he received was well-deserved.
The second half opened with the first performance of a piece written specially for the orchestra by the Yorkshire composer Richard Grantham. His inspiration was the 19thC log of the Scarborough ship ‘Aurora’. The music gave a graphic description of voyaging under sail.. Powerful rhythms propelled the piece along, and the composer’s brilliant use of the much enlarged orchestra grabbed the audience’s attention immediately. Richard Grantham said afterwards: " Scarborough Symphony Orchestra and Shaun Matthew did a wonderful job in creating the first performance of Aurora. I cannot thank them enough for all their hard work in bringing to life the many shifting moods of the work and in particular filling the hall with the tumultuous sea- inspired finale! Well done". The warmth of the large audience’s applause said it all.
The concert closed with a selection of pieces from the opera ‘Carmen’, by Bizet. Some were well known, some less so. The building excitement of the Bohemian Dance made a fitting conclusion to a great evening of music.
The Symphony Orchestra’s final concert of the season, to include Sibelius’s Violin Concerto, will be on July 19th

Review by Frank James

February 1st 2014

As their second concert of the season on Saturday Feb.1st the Scarborough Symphony Orchestra performed a programme of Weber, Beethoven and Brahms in Queen Street Central Hall to a large and appreciative audience. The overture to the opera ‘Oberon’ by Weber got the concert off to an excellent start. Weber is reckoned by many to be the first Romantic composer, and there was plenty of true Romantic atmosphere here; the solo horn rose to the challenge of the opening notes, the violins coped splendidly with the very rapid passages demanded of them, and the clarinet shone in the contrasting broad melody. A great choice of starter!
The second piece in the first half of the programme, was Beethoven ‘s 3rd Piano Concerto. Written and first performed by the composer when he was already suffering from increasing deafness, it is a remarkable work, and the soloist, Rebecca Taylor, tackled it with confidence. She grew up in Scarborough, and many will remember her playing Shostakovitch’s 2nd Piano Concerto with the orchestra as a teenager. Since then her career has gathered pace, and she is now in demand all over the UK and Europe as a pianist. With a fiery first movement (complete with Beethoven’s own long cadenza), a suitably thoughtful and melodic second movement, filled with improvisatory elaborations, and a cheerfully lively third, her interpretation was very well received by the audience. We wish her well with her career and hope to see her again in Scarborough before too long. 
 Brahms 3rd Symphony is a difficult work to ‘bring off’, full of extreme contrasts and cross-rhythms. Unlike the 4th, the overall mood is sombre. Both the orchestra and their conductor Shaun Matthew gave a very impressive and moving performance of this challenging score.

Frank James

November 15th 2013

The first concert of the season by the Scarborough Symphony orchestra was an unqualified success. Beethoven’s dramatic Coriolan Overture served to warm up the orchestra and get the proceedings off to a flying start. The audience clearly enjoyed its contrasting themes. The overture was followed by Haydn’s C Major Cello Concerto. Since its re-discovery in the 1960’s it has become a firm favourite with both soloists and concert-goers. The tunes came thick and fast, and the young cellist Mikhail Nemtsov coped admirably with the musical and technical demands of the three movements, producing a huge sound from his instrument. The applause at the end persuaded Mikhail to return and play a piece of unaccompanied Bach as an encore – more dazzling technical work, and more big sounds! One can see why Mikhail has already won so many prestigious prizes; we were indeed fortunate to be able to hear him in Scarborough.
The second half of the concert was filled by Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony. It was the first symphony he wrote after realising that his deafness was incurable, and marks a change in direction in his work. It is massively long, technically very challenging, and (for the time) surprisingly discordant in parts. It also demands great skill on the part of the conductor to steer the orchestra through it. The players coped admirably with the notes, the audience – (warned in the pre-concert talk, if they were not already familiar with the piece!) – with the length, and Shaun Matthew - splendidly - with the direction of the piece. It was a convincing and impressive performance; Shaun and the orchestra can be justly proud of themselves. As ever, Queen Street Central Hall proved an excellent venue, enabling the musicians to be seen and heard to full advantage.

Frank James

November 17th 2012

A large audience attended Queen Street Central Hall for the first of this winter’s concerts by the Scarborough Symphony Orchestra. The dramatic swings of mood of the opening overture, Beethoven’s Leonora No.3, were well captured; the distant off-stage trumpet calls added to the effect. Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No.5, which followed, was performed as originally intended by a small group of orchestral players supporting the three soloists. Richard Quick (violin) and Catherine Sign (flute), no strangers to Scarborough audiences, were very much in control of their solo parts, and their tone and intonation was superb. Josephine Peach (harpsichord) showed impressive technical mastery of her challenging part, though a bigger instrument would have allowed Bach’s splendid cadenzas to have more impact and required less restraint from the other players. The delicate and sensitive playing throughout by all involved was nevertheless thoroughly appreciated by the audience.
The second half consisted of one four-movement work, Mendelssohn’s Reformation Symphony, which called for the full orchestra again. Their balletic conductor, Shaun Matthew, steered them ably through a fine performance, and all sections of the orchestra had a chance to shine: woodwind and strings were on excellent form, and the final movement, featuring Luther’s great chorale, gave plenty of scope for the brass section and the percussionist! 
The orchestra’s decision to reduce the number of concerts during their season has clearly been the right one. The extra time spent in rehearsal meant that the players could play with more confidence in performance, and the timing of the concert, several weeks before the many Christmas events, had the effect of increasing the size of the audience. All this, combined with Queen Street’s excellent acoustics and supportive stage management, made for a thoroughly enjoyable evening. Scarborough may be justly proud to possess such a splendid Symphony Orchestra.  .

Reviewed by Frank James


Shaun Matthew
Anthony Mason
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Scarborough Symphony Orchestra is a Registered Charity: Charity Number 1125060.
Concert Venue: Methodist Central Hall, Queen Street, Scarborough, YO11 1HQ