An old saying has it that the superior person discusses ideas, the average person discusses things, and the inferior person talks about people. The latter has infected our public discourse for some time, but I never expected it to extend to a symphonic concert.

The concert in question was Sunday’s matinee of the Portland Symphony Orchestra at Merrill Auditorium, during which violist Laurie Kennedy’s performance of Ernest Bloch’s “Suite Hebraique” was preceded by a movie of her thoughts about music, the viola and the Portland Symphony.

Pleasant enough, if vapid, the segment had absolutely no place in a concert of classical music, and indeed may have prejudiced the relatively sparse audience against Kennedy, principal violist of the PSO.

She gave a creditable, if low-key, reading of Bloch’s ethnic viola concerto, with only a few missed notes, but the experience was spoiled by the previous injection of personality. Let us hope that the movie was only a temporary lapse in judgment.

The Bloch was preceded by an interesting version of Samuel Barber’s “Essay No. 1, Op. 12,” which revealed the intense passion simmering behind this composer’s normally buttoned-down work. The writing for percussion was especially striking.

The piece de resistance of the afternoon was Schubert’s Symphony No. 9 in C-Major, D.944 (The Great”), one of my favorites. It is always thrilling to hear a live version of this wonderful composition, which Schumann called the greatest symphonic work since the death of Beethoven. It is one of those rare works that one wants never to end, no matter how long it is.

That said, the performance on Sunday was somehow unsatisfying. The orchestration was as Schubert wrote it, but expanding the resources available would have increased the power of the music without affecting its clarity. This was particularly apparent in the multiple wave-like climaxes of the Finale and in the broad melodic sweep of the preceding Scherzo.

The Andante always reminds me of Poe’s “The Masque of the Red Death,” as disaster in the form of a plague interrupts a pleasant evening of dance. Conductor Robert Moody took a daringly long fermata after the tragic interlude, which would have been quite effective save for a peep from somebody during the silence, and a slightly ragged resumption of the dance.

We will have more Barber in the Nov. 1 concert, and the Mahler No. 4, which will require all of the orchestral resources available.

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