Douglas Boyd let the CSO in another strangely programmed concert last night. A CSO premiere of a Sibelius work, four movements from Pelléas and Mélisande were the find of the evening; beautiful, moody short pieces that set a nice tone for the evening.
Unfortunately the centerpiece of the evening was the Shostakovich Cello Concerto #1, a work that is more intellectual than emotional, which is usually a problem in music. It also made the concert quite long, probably the longest concert I've seen there. Ralph Kirshbaum played masterfully, but there is only so much emotion one can try to force into the piece. The first movement is quite good; it's practically a duet for solo cello and horn. The second movement is long, with a particularly self-indulgent cadenza, but the long harmonic section is quite beautiful as well. The third movement has rhythmic interest but by this point I think the patience of the audience had wavered completely.
After a long intermission the orchestra played the New World Symphony of Dvorak. Like Gershwin's piece An American in Paris, this should have been titled A Czech in America, as it's much more Czech than American, but nonetheless it is a thrilling piece no matter how many times I hear it. Boyd did some nice things in conducting it, including some sprightly tempo changes, especially in the scherzo, and a few tempo breaks that are not written into the score but worked nicely nonetheless. I do wish that he would not take such long breaks between movements. It stops the flow of the piece. Otherwise he was very good.