An overflow crowd at the National Academy of Sciences Saturday night enjoyed a superb program by the Polish Chamber Orchestra, a leading ensemble last heard in Washington in 1981. Conductor Voelker Schmidt-Gertenbach, an animated figure on the podium, led the players in some excellent baroque concertos and an Elgar work, but Shostakovich's "Chamber Symphony in C Minor," Op. 110, was the crowning achievement.
Arranged from his eighth string quartet, Shostakovich's highly personal statement was given an intense, haunting performance filled with expert playing. The bleak mood of the opening largo, the second scherzo's grotesque waltz and the insistent motto of the fourth movement, also a largo, were delivered with superior musicianship and technique.
Elgar's "Introduction and Allegro," Op. 47, scored for solo string quartet and string orchestra, is broadly based on Welsh themes. The quality of ensemble work was nowhere stronger than in the fugato movement, yet the entire work revealed a tight, neatly proportioned profile.
With soloists from the orchestra, Haydn's Cello Concerto in C and Vivaldi's Concerto for Two Violins, Op. 3, No. 5, were secure and well blended. Solo work in the Haydn was brisk and cleanly articulated, and the Vivaldi had sharply focused dynamics.