Conductor Lawrence Loh led the West Virginia Symphony in a graphic performance of Dmitri Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 10 in E Major, Saturday night at the Clay Center’s Maier Performance Hall.
The searching first movement was generously paced so that it felt heavy-footed in its rumblings in the cellos and basses at the start, yet it never felt like it was dragging or aimless. Principal clarinetist Robert Turizziani and principal flutist Lindsey Goodman played with lyrical poise in expansive solos. After the ferocious climax, Turizziani and clarinetist Rachael Stutzman Cohen phrased their duet elegantly with a beautiful tonal blend.
Loh took the brief, fierce second movement at a lightning-fast clip. The violins and the upper woodwinds flew through the whirling melodies with exactness. The brass sounded liable with rich horn chords, apocalyptic trumpet calls and some amazing stentorian blasts from the trombones and tuba.
The moderately-paced third movement is the heart of the piece. The initials of Shostakovich’s name become a motif that animates the rest of the piece: D (from Dmitri), S (E-flat in French), C, H (the “C” comes from the German rendering of his name, “H” is the German note B).
Loh’s conducting was spot on. The name motif emerged gradually and insistently. It did not overshadow the sly dancing tune that is the main idea. The violins started it with a sparse, chugging bit of low strings in the background. The bassoon took it up later. It appeared eventually in the English horn with an accompaniment by bassoons and contrabassoon. The playing was masterful.
Principal hornist Valery Sly played magically in the extended horn calls.
The finale was full of bustling energy, precise rhythm and fierce emotion. Timpanist Lauren Floyd ended the piece hammering out the name motif while the orchestra blazed away.
The audience responded with a vigorous ovation and shouts of acclaim.
The repertoire of concertos for two pianos and orchestra is slight compared with the vast number of concertos for one piano and ensemble. Mozart’s Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra in E-flat Major, K. 365. is one of the gems of that limited repertoire.
The luminous performance of the piece by the twin-sister pianists Christina and Michelle Naughton with the orchestra was suffused with the knowing interplay of chamber music. They shaded interlocking phrases tellingly and created textures that were sparkled with warm depths.
They made it mirthful, too, with harrumphing flurries of notes in the bass in the opening movement and wryly interjected grace notes in the slow movement that sounded like quiet bits of tongue-wagging.
The final rondo was fluid with impish grace.
Loh had the orchestra aligned precisely with the pianists, shaping a perceptive backdrop.
They played a nifty version of Lecuona’s “Malagueña” as an encore.
The concert began with the West Virginia Youth Symphony (Turizziani is its conductor) joining the orchestra for Shostakovich’s “Festive” Overture.
Loh kept the tempo brisk in the main section and the young musicians responded well with light articulations and lots of verve. It was hard work for the young players, but the sound of lots of players tackling Shostakovich was gratifying.