Shrewsbury Symphony Orchestra

Shrewsbury Orchestral Society

Review - Wed 14 June 2017

Shrewsbury Symphony Orchestra  presented its Summer Concert  at Shrewsbury Abbey with a programme of music by Dvorak, Bizet and Cesar Franck.  Starting with Dvorak’s lively  Carnival Overture,  the orchestra quickly came to terms with the Abbey’s  generous acoustic to produce some convincing  ensemble playing  and responded  to conductor John Moore’s  very fast tempo which made one think he was conducting with a whip and not a baton.  However, this resulted in a lusty, rollicking performance which got the evening off to a boisterous start. This was followed by six movements from the Carmen Suite by Bizet. This suite is a great crowd-pleaser with its catchy rhythms and memorable tunes. The orchestral playing was always secure  with special mention of the flute and harp dialogue in the 3rd movement and the bassoon solo in the 5th movement . The last movement  was the popular ‘Toreador’s Song’ played with great panache – we just needed a bull fight on Wyle Cop to complete the picture.

The 2nd half was devoted to the Symphony in D minor  by Cesar Franck, the only composer of note to come out of Belgium. Few people would have known this work, but it has some attractive moments  which  are quite captivating. The symphony starts with a gentle 3-note figure which recurs in the other two movements.  The music builds  up to a climax  for full orchestra with some fiery  rhythms which were well managed by the orchestra,  though they didn’t match up with the rhythmic sounds  of the interval coffee cups being washed up in the distance. Solo passages for the cor anglais, harp and French horn were the highlights  of this movement.  The last movement was played with great energy and purpose  bringing  the concert to a rousing conclusion.

The orchestra’s Leader, Paul Bramwell  and conductor John Moore are both to be congratulated on the way this orchestra has developed  under their guidance and  admirable musicianship,  traits which were very evident  again in this most enjoyable concert.

© Bob Wysome (reproduced by kind permission)

Review - Wed 25 May 2016


A large audience at Shrewsbury Abbey was privileged to witness a remarkable performance of Elgar’s violin concerto by young violinist Jennifer Pike, accompanied by the Shrewsbury Symphony Orchestra under their charismatic conductor John Moore. As soon as she started, Jennifer had the full attention of the audience as her wonderfully rich tone soared across the Abbey.


We were transfixed by her calm authority and impressive technique as she quickly established a rapport with conductor and orchestra. In the second movement she was never dwarfed by the orchestra and this movement in particular demonstrated  her ability to build and release musical tension with, seemingly, little effort. The final movement produced a scintillating display of violin pyrotechnics as the soloist coped admirably with the many technical challenges - bravura passage-work, dynamic contrasts, superb bow control and keen, yet unfussy, articulation were all admirable qualities in this performance, which culminated in a mesmerising cadenza. This was playing of the highest quality, and after prolonged and deserved applause she treated us to a Bach Sarabande as an encore.


After 45 minutes of intensive concentration accompanying Jennifer Pike you might have thought that the orchestra would be flagging a little; but they continued the high standard in a performance of the ‘Fantasia on a theme of Thomas Tallis’ by Vaughan Williams for a double string orchestra  and solo quartet which was carefully crafted with a good balance between the groups and  some excellent solo playing on violin and viola. With the generous Abbey acoustics to sustain the string sound, this was a captivating performance.


Finally we were treated to the Welsh Rhapsody by Edward German, who was a Shropshire lad, born in Whitchurch. In this four movement piece the composer takes four well-known Welsh tunes and develops them cleverly with some imaginative orchestral colours. This was played with great verve by the orchestra, with many highlights, notably the lovely ‘David of the White Rock’ tune on cellos
and oboe, the crisp piccolo playing in the tarantella movement and the final burst of energy in the ‘Men of Harlech’ march.


Congratulations to everyone involved  -  a memorable evening.


© Bob Wysome (reproduced by kind permission)

Review - Wed 30 Nov 2016

In recent years Shrewsbury Symphony Orchestra has shown great imagination and initiative in its programme planning. This was again apparent in the orchestra’s recent concert at the Alington Hall of Shrewsbury School. In a praiseworthy attempt to attract a younger audience to classical music, the programme was centred around Prokofiev’s ‘Peter and the Wolf’, a musical tale where each of the story’s characters is represented by a particular instrumental sound. The challenging solo parts were superbly played by an aptly perky flute (bird), a husky low-pitched oboe (duck), a cool dude cat (clarinet), a suitably tetchy bassoon (grandfather), vigorous timpani (gun-shots), the prowling French horns (wolf) and the sedate strings (Peter) ; but, of course, the success of this work depends upon the narrator – and this role was taken by the talented actor Robert Daws whose delivery was crisp and clear and his timing immaculate.


The concert had begun with a confident performance of Humperdinck’s Hansel & Gretel overture followed by Handel’s Fireworks music, which allowed the brass section to empty its lungs in the robust fanfare passages. However, this work from the Baroque seemed a little out of place amongst the late-Romantic pieces in the programme.


The second half was made up of Classic FM favourites. Despite a few early lapses in intonation Grieg’s Peer Gynt Suite no.1 was played with great sensitivity, particularly in Ase’s Death movement, where the string sound was quite ethereal. The final work was Smetana’s delightful ‘Vltava’, a tone-poem depicting the course of the Vltava river from its source as a mountain stream to its majestic entry into Prague. The orchestra played this work with considerable relish and left the audience humming the memorable melodies as they left.

This was a good start to the orchestra’s season, with much credit going to leader Paul Bramwell and buoyant conductor John Moore.


There was a nice touch before the concert proper began, The ‘In Harmony Children’s Orchestra’ based in Telford and Wrekin, whose aim is to put music at the centre of the local community, played for a short time in front of parents and friends, with some of them joining the Shrewsbury orchestra in the Fireworks music. Judging by the enthusiastic audience response and the proud looks on the faces of the young players as they left the stage, then this project can be deemed a tremendous success. 


© Bob Wysome (reproduced by kind permission)

Review - Wed 29 Mar 2017

The latest concert by Shrewsbury Symphony Orchestra was performed before a good sized and attentive audience in the splendid setting of Shrewsbury Abbey. The evening began with Beethoven’s overture, Leonora No.3. which allowed the orchestra to finds its feet as the music moved from a darkly brooding opening section to a perky ‘allegro’ - despite a few tepid entries early in the piece, the music became more fluent and relaxed and the ending was particularly impressive with good ensemble and rhythmic drive.

In recent times this orchestra has attracted young, gifted soloists to play concertos in their concerts - Tasmin Little and Jennifer Pike are good examples. For this event, we were treated to a scintillating .performance of Richard Strauss’s 2nd Horn Concerto by another future star, Ben Goldscheider, winner of the brass category final of BBC Young Musician of the Year in 2016.

It was quite remarkable to hear the ravishing sounds he produced coming from what in effect is a long piece of contorted metal. The first movement was totally secure and delivered with impressive rhythmic accuracy while the slow movement showed the lyrical character of the instrument in a beautifully phrased performance. But it was the last movement which took our breath away as the soloist raced at breakneck speed through a mire of challenging passages which the orchestra managed to keep up with - just.

The 2nd half was devoted to the 1st symphony of Brahms, a wonderful piece of Romantic writing but very difficult for orchestral players both amateur and professional, with its complex rhythms and dramatic contrasts. This performance began shakily but it grew in confidence and control thanks largely to the musicianship of conductor John Moore, who kept the orchestra nicely in check, building towards the glorious melody of the last movement. There were many highlights in this performance, but suffice it to say that the energy and sense of purpose of the orchestra were evident once again , resulting in another enjoyable and stimulating evening’s entertainment. 


© Bob Wysome (reproduced by kind permission)

Review - Wed 16 Mar 2016

Shrewsbury Symphony Orchestra began its 2016 concert season with a programme of Russian music at Shrewsbury Abbey. The concert began with Tchaikovsky’s  Marche Slave, which the orchestra played with great spirit from the outset  -  a good choice of opener, as  it is well within the capabilities of an amateur orchestra and is full of  attractive tunes based upon Serbian folk songs. This was followed by  the  2nd Spartacus Suite by  the  Armenian composer, Aram Khachaturian.  The opening movement’s main theme was used as the signature tune of ‘The Onedin Line’ , and here it was notable for the lush string playing depicting the love scene  between Spartacus and  Phrygia. The other three movements were  equally convincing , with some accomplished solo playing by the principal clarinettist being a high point.


The second half was devoted  to what was to prove an exhilarating performance of Tchaikovsky’s 4th symphony. Conductor John Moore drew from the players  a wide palette of orchestral colour, with good phrasing , sensitively controlled vibrato and, above all, great energy. In the first movement , the opening fanfare-like figures were well articulated, and the orchestra gave constant attention to the gradual changes of dynamics and textures. The middle movements had some lovely moments, from the gracious oboe solo of the 2nd movement to the well-controlled string pizzicatos which dominate the Scherzo. The final movement  provided an excellent finish to the concert, with the semiquaver passage-work of the strings, fluid wind sounds and  meaty brass and percussion all contributing to a memorable  performance of this most challenging of symphonies.


Congratulations to conductor, leader and all sections of the orchestra for such an enjoyable evening’s entertainment, and we look forward to their next concert on May 25th , when virtuoso violinist, Jennifer Pike, will join with the orchestra to play the violin concerto of Edward Elgar.


© Bob Wysome (reproduced by kind permission)