Sunday’s season finale concert by the Midcoast Symphony Orchestra at Olin Hall may not have been the most technically proficient of its 21-year history, but it was among the most musically satisfying that I have attended.

That it featured two of my favorite works in the repertoire — the Chopin Piano Concerto No. 1 in E-minor (Opus 11) and the Brahms Symphony No. 1 in C Minor (Opus 68) — didn’t hurt.

The warm-up piece was Michael Torke’s “Javelin,” commissioned by the Atlanta Symphony for the 1996 Olympics. “Javelin” is typical made-for-TV, fascist bombast, but its mercurial changes of mood gave the orchestra a chance to demonstrate its considerable talent for vibrant tone color.

In the Chopin Concerto No. 1 that followed, pianist Laura Kargul filled in at the last minute for the young Maine virtuoso, William Bristol, whom she tutors at the University of Southern Maine. Playing with the score on the music rack, she proceeded to show how it should be done.

Known for her Liszt interpretations, Kargul in recent years has developed a glorious, singing tone, without in the least blurring her well-articulated notes and amazing passage work. The result was perfect for Chopin.

The concerto is often denigrated for its lack of “form,” unsophisticated variations on the melodies and perfunctory orchestration, but it works perfectly well in spite of these flaws, which may very well be virtues.

The work contains some of the most beautiful and original melodies ever composed, and if the composer wanted to explore their obvious virtues, instead of hiding them in a cloud of “augenmusik” (music for the eye and intellect, rather than the ear), so be it.

Its competent orchestration is just what it needs to be, and music director Rohan Smith emphasized that fact in his conducting, including the long, well-composed orchestral introduction.

Technical virtuosity in the piano score is not merely for display, although it is spectacular, but develops themes and prolongs profound emotions.

The Brahms Symphony is the exact opposite, developing relatively unassuming motifs into a towering melodic structure. What he does in turning Beethoven’s V-for-Victory motif (di-di-di-dah) into something totally his own, is just as moving as Chopin’s melodic gift.

The Midcoast did a superb job with the difficult score, allowing Smith to develop his own interpretation, without worrying about whether the players were up to it.

In the fourth movement, the glorious horn calls that precede the final triumphant melody are one of the high points of classical music. They were perfectly executed. The relief at passing a supreme test might have led to a glitch a little later in the brass choir, but did nothing to detract from the overall effect.

Both the concerto and the symphony were given a standing ovation by a large crowd at Olin Hall.

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

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