Conductor Keitaro Harada made an arresting debut Saturday night in an ebullient performance with the West Virginia Symphony at the Clay Center.

The 31-year-old Harada’s approach to Dvorak’s Symphony No. 8 in G major featured carefully etched details braced by rhythmic vigor and tonal splendor.

Harada shaped the scherzo with whispering textures of bubbling winds and hovering strings punctuated by precise accents. The cellos played eloquently in the finale’s main melody. The brasses and timpani were forceful and resplendently toned in driving the music forward. Harada made the climaxes awe-inspiring. The audience gave the performance an extended standing ovation even though it was just the end of the first half of the concert.

Harada had a flair to his conducting style, and not just the bit of turquoise piping in the lining of his tuxedo. The final Malambo of “Estancia” is a rapid dance in six-beat meter that twitters with piccolos, xylophone and violins. That is interrupted at the ends of phrases by huge thumps from the rest of the orchestra, especially the bass drum. He playfully used big conducting gestures to cue the drummer, that got bigger with each return of the part.

After it was over, and after four curtain calls and shouts of acclaim, he had the audience clap the bass drum’s part while the orchestra played the movement again as an encore.

The audience loved it.

To read the full review by David Williams, please visit here.