It’s been 12 years since Yo-Yo Ma appeared as a guest artist with the LSO. His return last night was greeted with extravagant enthusiasm by a sold-out audience at the Buddy Holly Hall. The entire program was devoted to the music of Antonin Dvořák.

The program’s first half consisted of two Slavonic Dances, the finale of Symphony #9, and the finale to the Czech Suite. All four were played with panache and virtuosity. Maestro David Cho’s orchestra has developed under his insightful leadership into an ensemble that functions at the highest orchestral level and would excel by the standards of a metropolis exponentially larger than Lubbock. Given the extraordinary venue in which it performs and the artistic excellence of these performances, Lubbock is a center of symphonic distinction equal to any in Texas.

Of course, the hook that drew the capacity crowd was Mr Ma. He’s been at the top of the cello class for almost a half-century. He must have played Dvořák’s ubiquitous concerto a thousand times. His cello could likely play it on its own. He performed the piece with finesse and grace. All that was lacking was volume. He decided to play very softly. In a hall with acoustics so acute that a feather lands with a thud the softness of his playing was both noticeable and surprising. Especially as the orchestra sounded ready for armed conflict, this was only so during the passages when the cello was silent. When both were playing maestro Cho kept the orchestral level appropriate to Ma’s restrained playing.

Then there was the post-performance show. Ma knows how to work a crowd at an Olympian level. He hugged everyone but the security guards and they were ignored only because they were in the lobby rather than the hall. His rapport with the crowd was electric and garnered more enthusiasm than if Texas Tech had won a major bowl game. He even gave the guns up sign. For his second encore, he grabbed Michael Newton’s cello and played it instead of his own which was offstage at the time. Newton is the LSO’s principal cellist.

The result of the excellent playing, the personal charm and charisma of the soloist, and the audience’s enthusiasm was a memorable evening. If Ma returned next week another sellout would ensue. He is an artist who never disappoints.