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Reviews & Comments

Concerts & Operas:, Mark Ronan – Leonore, Buxton Opera Festival, July 2016:

9 July 2016

“…with the Northern Chamber Orchestra under the baton of Stephen Barlow giving Beethoven’s music urgency and restrained passion.”

Manchester Theatre Awards, Philip Radcliffe – Leonore at Buxton Festival 2016:

8 July 2016

“The Northern Chamber Orchestra under Barlow’s knowing hand captures splendidly this tuneful score.” 

Manchester Evening News – Dvorak Piano Concerto with Stephen Hough:

10 March 2015

Dvorak Piano Concerto: “…needs to be interpreted with a clear sense of structure and climax.  So how do you manage that when you have no conductor, as is the Northern Chamber Orchestra’s way?  This pays its dividends in alertness and life whenever they play, but here the soloist needed to lead and inspire as well as perform.”

“…Mozart’s ‘Prague’ Symphony, in which their familiar incisiveness and flair shone, and the finale positively sparkled.”

Bachtrack – Dvořák’s Jacobin returns from musical exile to delight Buxton:

15 July 2014

“…the Northern Chamber Orchestra played quite wonderfully well for him (Stephen Barlow), drawing out Dvořák’s endless stream of melodic invention with much affection.”

The Telegraph – The Jacobin, Buxton Festival:

17 July 2014, 4 out of 5 stars

“…the Northern Chamber Orchestra plays with a beguiling lilt: the sum of it is a loving performance of a deeply loveable opera, the homely Buxton Festival at its best.”

Manchester Evening News – NCO premieres new work by Adam Gorb:

7 April 2014

The Northern Chamber Orchestra is that rare beast: an orchestra without a conductor. It makes for a special kind of music-making, and that’s something that composer Adam Gorb has found an inspiration.”

Manchester Evening News – NCO Macclesfield Concert Season:

14 April 2014

Nicholas Ward, as ever the host for the evening as well as leader of the band, brought poise and energy to his task which was infectious among the musicians of the conductor-less orchestra.”

Manchester Evening News – Conductor-less Orchestra:

April 2013

The NCO is unusual because in concert it’s a conductor-less orchestra.  Its leader, Nicholas Ward, is its director in performance, and his success can be seen in its consistently excellent performances and top-rated reviews of its recordings.”

Opera Magazine – Buxton Festival:

“…playing from the Northern Chamber Orchestra that was quite simply world-class.”

Financial Times – Buxton Festival:

Consistently stylish playing from the Northern Chamber Orchestra.”



The Guardian – Haydn Symphonies:

There are not many new discs of early Haydn symphonies sounding fresher or crisper than those…recorded…by the Northern Chamber Orchestra.”

The Daily Telegraph – Malcolm Arnold Cello Concerto:

Raphael Wallfisch and the NCO relish its expressive and enlivening potential, the orchestra coming into its own again in the much earlier, flavoursome Symphony for Strings.”

Cambridge Journals – Malcolm Arnold Cello Concerto:

Considered and passionate, the satisfying performance by the Northern Chamber Orchestra under Nicholas Ward enhances the stature of a substantial piece largely ignored by conductors who have championed Arnold’s other large-scale works….Indeed all the performances on this disc are of the first rank.”

BBC Music Magazine – Boccherini Cello Concerto, Recordings 9-12 with Raphael Wallfisch (Nimbus):

The partnership with the Northern Chamber Orchestra (and Raphael) works very well.”

The Strad – Boccherini Cello Concerto, Recordings 9-12:

Some especially enjoyable music making, while the NCO’s oboes, horns and strings contribute substantially to the joie de vivre of the finale.”

Customer Comments – 2014/ 2015 Season:

“…we are so lucky to have an orchestra of NCO quality visiting us in a small town…I wanted to convey my appreciation to the orchestra and say I hope they will be performing in Macc for many years to come…” SL of Macclesfield

Customer Comments – 2014/ 2015 Season:

Excellent concert (as usual).  Great atmosphere and splendid music.”

An evening of superb music, played with energy and passion.”

“There’s always a feeling of the musicians playing to a group of friends – Nicholas Ward’s introductions are a delight – informative and inclusive.”

We attend most concerts held by the NCO in Macclesfield and always enjoy them immensely.  Nicholas Ward is a great asset to the NCO.”

Consistently high standard of performance with a varied programme.”

An excellent, well-balanced concert.  The Sibelius Violin Concerto was sensational.”

Brilliant programme, Locus Iste an inspiration – amongst others, such as Rossini.”

Arthur Dicken, Prestbury, ‘Letter of the Week’ – Macclesfield Heritage Centre, 2013/14 Season:

April 20, 2013

What a pleasure it was to attend the concert by the Northern Chamber Orchestra at.  It was a privilege to be there to hear the quality of the music, especially from the seven soloists of the NCO in a varied programme from Bach and Beethoven to Berwald.  I do hope that this excellent series will long continue and that more people will hear of this opportunity to hear such wonderfully played classical music on our own doorstep in Macclesfield.

Not only are these NCO concerts a delight, but a friendly, local concert in our own Heritage Centre compares so well with the long drive to Manchester and the formality of the concerts there.”


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 10 reviews
by Christine Ince on NCO
Gwilym Simcock at Stoller Hall

Gwilym Simcock at Stoller Hall

Concert Stoller Hall, Chetham's School, Manchester 12/01/18This was a concert featuring the celebrated pianist Gwylim Simcock, a past pupil of Chetham's, and the Northern Chamber Orchestra, with some of the Young Players from Chetham's.Read more

by Robert Hugill, Planet Hugill on NCO
Classic yet modern - Bellini's I Capuleti ei Montecchi at Buxton

"In the pit Justin Doyle drew a lithe performance from the Northern Chamber Orchestra. Bellini's score is nowhere near as complex as that of Beethoven for the previous night's Leonore, but it still requires a sympathetic hand to ensure that Bellini's orchestral colours come through and that the rather basic rhythmic shapes that he uses in the accompaniment are fluid and not driven. This was quite a speedily dramatic performance, but one with enough flexibility to allow the music to flow."

by Robert Hugill, Planet Hugill on NCO
Not just Fidelio-lite - the real Leonore at the Buxton Festival (2016)

"It was good to hear the overture Leonore no 2 in an operatic context for once, and Barlow's performance with the Northern Chamber Orchestra admirably set the scene."

by Rupert Christiansen, The Telegraph on NCO
Leonore, Opera House, review: 'Buxton Festival at its best'

"All praise to Stephen Barlow whose conducting of the Northern Chamber Orchestra combines ferocity with warmth and grandeur."

by Robert Beale, on NCO
Leonore, I Capuleti e i Montecchi: Love stories with a difference in the Peak District

Leonore: "Stephen Barlow drew generally excellent playing from the Northern Chamber Orchestra, whose sound fills this lovely, small opera house ideally..." I Capuleti e i Montecchi: "...some beautiful instrumental solos from the NCO (the principal horn and harp in Giulietta’s "O quante volte", in particular)."

by Peter Connors, on NCO
Springtime in Italy in Macclesfield: Northern Chamber Orchestra

****Bachtrack review of NCO Springtime in Italy with Craig Ogden
"All in all this concert was a splendid conclusion to the series in an enterprising and engaging selection of works with a star soloist in an undeservedly rare concerto."

by Peter Connors, on NCO
Unfamiliar Haydn symphony shines in Macclesfield

Haydn Symphony no. 21 in A major "...suited the forces of the NCO perfectly. As usual they played without a conductor; Nicholas Ward (the orchestra’s artistic director) directed from the leader’s chair. With 12 strings, two horns and two oboes this was fine chamber orchestra playing... The players seemed to be enjoying the music and gave a spirited performance."

by Anonymous on NCO
NCO April Macclesfield concert

My wife and I have thoroughly enjoyed the concerts featuring Stephen Hough and Ian Fountain. Standards are high!

by Anonymous on NCO
Feb Macclesfield Concert

Excellent Concert (as usual). Great atmosphere and splendid music.

by Anonymous on NCO
NCO & Jennifer Pike

An excellent, well-balanced concert. The Sibelius Violin Concerto was sensational

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