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The Portland Symphony Orchestra’s post-Valentine’s Day concert, ”Rach and Romance,” Tuesday night at Merrill Auditorium, lived up to its advance billing, with a lustful ”The Chairman Dances,” by John Adams, a lush ”Romantic” Symphony No. 2 by the great American composer Howard Hanson, and a thrilling performance of the Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 2 by the latest wunderkind, Yuja Wang.

The only piece out of place was part of the Scarlatti Sonata in G minor (K. 455), an unwelcome encore that spoiled the romantic mood created by the Rachmaninoff, and raised doubts about the respect of the pianist for that work. The Rachmaninoff Second is certainly an old warhorse, but it deserves better than to be upstaged.

Wang, however, deserves the highest marks for her interpretation of the concerto, which was strong, technically flawless and perfectly integrated with the orchestra under Robert Moody.

From the deeply felt sonority of the opening chords onward, one realized that here was a pianist who actually listened, not only to the orchestra, but to the composer’s intent. The cadenzas sparkled like a diamond necklace, and Wang had the power to compete on equal terms with a full orchestra.

Her dynamic range, for the most part, provided plenty of dramatic contrast, except in the second movement, and the crescendo of ”Full moon and empty arms,” was enough to make John Calvin swoon.

The choice of Adams’ ”The Chairman Dances,” for the opening work was inspired. The complex, driving rhythms were hypnotizing, with an ”oriental” flavor, and soon devoured and transformed the smoky foxtrot that Madame Mao dances with her husband.

I have loved the ”Romantic” Symphony ever since hearing Howard Hanson conduct it with the Eastman-Rochester Philharmonic. It has something for everyone, and is more distinctively American than Dvorak’s ”New World,” which it resembles in some ways, notably the use of American Indian motifs.

Although an advocate of ”modern” music, Hanson, in his own work, preferred to put new wine in old bottles. It is thus surprising to hear echoes of Stravinsky, Debussy and especially Rachmaninoff in this symphony.

The Portland Symphony Orchestra did full justice to its quirky power and stark contrasts — the intimate passage between the powerful brass choirs at the conclusion was superb — and pulled out all the stops on its romance. Hanson could not have done it better.

Christopher Hyde’s ”Classical Beat” column appears in the Maine Sunday Telegram. He can be reached at:

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