The concert began and ended with colorful showpieces that gave each section of the Cleveland Orchestra opportunities to shine – and they did. The string-players were superb as they shared vigorous figures in The Bartered Bride Overture, with winds and brass pervading the festive atmosphere. In Capriccio italien the strings were lushly melancholy, the woodwinds charming, and were ultimately overtaken by rousing brass and percussion shaping the dance rhythms.
The centerpiece of the concert, given without intermission, was Dvořák’s Cello Concerto with Yo-Yo Ma. Franz Welser-Möst drew superlative playing, paying keen attention to detail as well as being in partnership with Ma, emphasizing the music’s symphonic import. Ma brought infectious energy to the opening Allegro, deftly rattling off runs and scales, and his instrument sang out sweetly with the lyrical theme that had been introduced by Michael Mayhew’s splendid horn solo. The Adagio was simply gorgeous, almost as if Ma were embracing his cello and serenading it. In the spirited Finale, he offered a broad palate of colorations, including a rapturous duet with concertmaster William Preucil, sustaining and building interest right up to the tumultuous coda.
Noteworthy contributions also came from oboist Frank Rosenwein and flutist Joshua Smith, and as a contrasting encore, Ma and the orchestra offered Dvořák’s gently contemplative Silent Woods.