The opening concert of the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra is a sign that the Chautauqua Institution’s summer is officially in full swing. And a sign — coincidental or intended? — that it was nigh rang over the grounds earlier Saturday. A few hours before the concert commenced with Edward Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance No. 4, Miller Bell Tower chimed with the British composer’s more famous No. 1, which graces many a commencement ceremony.
Regardless of the reason Elgar was ringing from on high, it was welcome to this critic for both mood and intellect (especially since the main themes of both approximate inversions of each other).
In the Amphitheater, Chautauqua Institution President Tom Becker announced the CSO’s 85th season, calling it the “bedrock” of the arts here. Guest conductor Christopher Seaman then led the audience in “The Star-Spangled Banner.” But the real deal came with the violins capturing that refulgent Edwardian tone in the Elgar. (That timbre would be replicated, if fleetingly, near the end of Brahms’ Symphony No. 2 at the close of the program.) Seaman set a relaxed tempo and let the music flow. I have always enjoyed the beaming face of the timpanist of the CSO, and he was again leading from the back with a smile as well as a solid and lively beat.