Music: Reviews

Review: Scarborough Symphony Orchestra

Stephen Wood reviews Scarborough Symphony Orchestra's performance on 19 July. 
A scattered showers and sunny intervals sort of evening as I set off to The Spa. Much to my shame, I’ve never heard the Scarborough Symphony Orchestra playing, indeed my classical concert going is limited the last concert being the brilliant Joanna MacGregor at The Cadagan Hall playing Messiaen’s Vingt regards sur L’enfant-Jésus. 

The programme at The Spa was entitled ‘Moments from The Big Screen’. Is film music the most underrated musical form there is? The programme started with the ‘Gladiator Suite’ from Hans Zimmer’s wonderful music from the film starring Russell Crowe with some great work from the percussion section. This was followed by ‘Dances with Wolves’ which even I could recognise as the work of John Barry. This section didn’t quite hit the spot – might that have something to do with me hating the film? I’d travel quite a distance to avoid seeing Kevin Costner!

Then for me the highlight of the night. Gabriel’s Oboe from ‘The Mission’. Morricone must be one of the greatest composers of film music, indeed as I write this I’m listening to the sound-track of ‘Once Upon A Time in America’. Peter Walser’s oboe playing was quite wonderful, very moving. Listening to the original next day, it compared very favourably.

Next the Shostakovich Piano Concerto No 2 played by Frank Hardy. It’s a piece I don’t know well but I can tell from my years in the theatre when a performer is racked with nerves – the body language gives it away. He seemed tense in the first movement, but mercifully seemed to relax in the second and by the third he was enjoying it more. I’m afraid it didn’t move me a jot – I’m sure technically it was perfectly played but there seemed no emotion in the playing, no sharing with the audience.

The second half started with a rousing selection of ‘James Bond’ themes which the orchestra were clearly having a good time playing. This was followed by Khachaturian’s Adagio from ‘Spartacus’ and Mascagni’s Intermezzo from ‘Cavalleria Rusticana’. They were really getting into their stride now, playing with much more feeling and that was transferring to the audience much more than the first half.

I could have done with more music from ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’. These are glorious films with some breathtaking music very finely played, marred for me, sitting very close to the sound desk, by a badly miked Elaine Dave (Soprano) which was a disgrace. I’ve never seen such a large desk for a venue that size. The one time you needed to hear the singer, they failed.

The Raiders March from ‘Indiana Jones’ was played with gusto and a fitting way to end the evening before a ‘Stars Wars’ encore.

Did I enjoy it? Yes, hugely, with some reservations. We should be proud that Scarborough has a Symphony Orchestra. The standard of playing seemed particularly high. Shaun Matthew, the conductor, has clearly worked very hard with the players, the strings were particularly expressive. Would I go again? Yes. The memory of Peter Walser’s oboe playing lives on.


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