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.


Amanda Adams review of our October 2014 concert at Richmond (Darlington and Stockton Times):
This was a fantastic opening night for the new season of subscription concerts – a combination of one of the best ensembles in the region with one of the best leading guitar soloists Carl Herring. The evening began with Bizet’s Jeux d’Enfants. It was a warm and bright opening and fabulous to see the orchestra relax, clearly at ease under the eye of conductor Tim Jackson.

The following piece, Concierto de Aranjuéz by Rodrigo, featured guitarist Herring, and right from the outset the timbre of his guitar virtuosity shone. Instantly it transported the audience to warm climates. The lilting movements, laments and soaring joys brought smiles to the listeners’ faces. After the interval Herring performed three piano works by Schubert arranged for guitar by Johann Mertz, and it was a delight to hear them performed in this manner.

The final symphony was Mendelssohn’s No 3 in A minor, “The Scottish”, a mighty piece in contrast to what had gone before, stirring stuff, bold, brash, full of Scottish lilts, grit and determination. It left no doubt that the Cleveland Chamber Orchestra is in top form.


E-mail received after our May 2014 concert:
What a fabulous afternoon at Preston Park… many thanks to the team and you for the invite… really enjoyed it. Coffee and cakes… nice touch also!   Regards Ian


Nat Smith on our September 2013 concert (Darlington and Stockton Times):
Stokesley Methodist Church has recently been refurbished and it was fascinating to hear what a difference this made to its acoustic. Tim Jackson’s Cleveland Chamber Orchestra gave the first classical concert with full forces and the sound was very clear and immediate. Any larger ensemble may have to play with mutes or the audience could feel overcome.

However this was a chamber orchestra playing four contrasting pieces. Ravel’s sombre “Pavan for a Dead Princess” was followed by Hummel’s ebullient Trumpet Concerto. Soloist Alex Lewis, yet another gifted musician from Teesside, gave a technically assured performance with a glorious rich tone. The orchestra continued its splendid tradition of supplying a copious quantity of cakes and tea for the audience during the interval.

Then we had the least known piece, Frank Bridge’s “Summer” which is a richly scored evocation of a pastoral Britain just before the Great War. The addition of harp and celeste enhanced the colour. The concert concluded with an excellent performance of Mozart’s Prague Symphony. Mozart demands accuracy and musicality from both strings and wind and the Cleveland Chamber Orchestra under Tim Jackson’s steady baton matched all his demands.

E-mail received after our October 2012 concert in Yarm School with Emma Johnson (clarinet)
Congratulations on a magnificent concert – the orchestra were extremely good, and E J seemed to be appreciative.   What an amazing performer she is; natural yet expressive.   It was very enjoyable, and the venue amazing as well, especially on a sunny Sunday afternoon. I approve of afternoon concerts, so I don’t have to drive home on dark nights.
Well done to all involved.
Best wishes
Ann Hutchings, Making Music Yorkshire & NE


Nat Smith on our March 2012 concert (Darlington and Stockton Times):

Tim Jackson’s Cleveland Chamber Orchestra, conducted by its founder, presented a fascinating evening of music in the Methodist Church on 31st March. The second half consisted of a really balanced performance of Beethoven’s 4th Symphony played smoothly and right up to speed. This was the first of his works which really indulged in syncopation and percussive pyrotechnics.   How apt a choice after a first half of the concert consisting of pieces never performed here before, even though their composers were renowned and prolific.

The first half started with Schubert’s Overture ‘In the Italian Style’ which is seldom played (even during a week of wall-to-wall Schubert on Radio 3) because of “technical difficulty” – the wind section would echo that. But it galloped along at a rollicking speed.   Then came Milhaud’s Concerto for Percussion and Small Orchestra. It may have been only 8 ½ minutes long but the soloist, the accomplished player and contortionist on the night, Andrew Wilkinson, got to hit 19 different percussion instruments. After a “lively, uncouth and dramatic” opening a beautiful dreamy second movement rested the eardrums before a brief explosion at the end. Possibly a more difficult piece followed – Aaron Copland’s Latin American Sketches with plenty of cross-rhythms and more percussion, as well as Alison Gill supporting valiantly on the piano.   The music was very Mexican in style with mariachi sounding trumpet excellently played by David Robinson.

For their 96th concert in their 30th year the Orchestra both surprised and delighted their Stokesley audience.

Anna Jackson on our October 2010 concert (Darlington and Stockton Times):

The choice of baroque and classical music for this concert was well judged to show off the best qualities of the orchestra: dynamic and stylish strings and the individual musical personalities of the principal wind players and timpanist. The programme began with a bright and precise account of Rameau’s Overture to Dardanus. It was refreshing to hear music from the French baroque, which is too rarely performed in this country. With only seventeen string players there was nowhere to hide, and it was clear there were no passengers, with every player utterly committed to the music.

Dan Hands, the leader, and Ian Denley, the principal flute, joined harpsichordist John Treherne as soloists in Bach’s fifth Brandenburg concerto. The complex musical lines were clearly defined by orchestra and soloists. John Treherne’s virtuoso playing of the notoriously difficult solo harpsichord part was occasionally obscured by the reverberant acoustic in the church, but came across clearly in the more favourable acoustic of Helmsley Arts Centre, which is an ideal setting for a chamber orchestra.

A selection from Handel’s Water Music was played with great joie de vivre. This music is not as easy to bring off as it looks, and there were moments where the attack was not unanimous. However, well-characterized dance movements, bright incisive trumpets and inventive continuo playing all contributed to a most enjoyable ten minutes.

Haydn‘s 104 symphonies are an almost inexhaustible fund of musical wit and invention, yet audiences seem to prefer Mozart and Beethoven. Tim Jackson was a persuasive advocate for Haydn in his interpretation of the symphony no.88 in a performance which combined pace and energy with careful attention to detail.     The orchestra’s love for their music and commitment to high standards made for a most enjoyable concert.