PORTLAND — The Portland Symphony Orchestra is concluding its 2011-12 season with two concerts, Sunday and tonight, celebrating the Kotzschmar Organ, which will undergo major renovations this fall after a three-day festival in August.  

Sunday’s concert, to be repeated tonight, was a reminder of why Portland’s municipal organ is worth a couple of million dollars in repairs on its 100th anniversary. The great Saint-Saens Organ Symphony No. 3 in C Minor (Op. 78) provided ample evidence of just how magnificent the combination of organ and orchestra can be.

The Symphonie Concertante for Organ and Orchestra, Opus 81, of Joseph Jongen (1873-1953), which preceded the Saint Saens, hinted at some of its power, but it took the Symphony No. 3 to bring the audience to its feet.

The Jongen symphony, commissioned for the Wannamaker Organ in Philadelphia but not performed there until 2008, is more of a display piece than the Saint Saens. It is an eclectic work, with echoes of Elgar, and at times Richard Addinsell of “Warsaw Concerto” fame.

It had many effective touches, as in the rural images of the Lento Mysterioso, which begins with an almost perfect matching of the flute and the organ’s flute voice. In most passages there was a fine balance between the orchestra, under music director Robert Moody, and the organ, played by Ray Cornils.

Still, it never seemed to cohere entirely until the final movement, which opened with hunting calls and came to a satisfyingly triumphant conclusion.

The program opened with Richard Danielpour’s virtuoso workout for orchestra, “Toward the Splendid City.” It is written in a style one can only call “broken glass” — the repetitive drive of a Phillip Glass composition, but with sharper, more ragged edges. The cacophony of voices, representing the hubbub of New York, edges toward a consonance, until the composer decides that such an ending is too obvious and, with a brass raspberry, returns to the battle.

What is there to say about the Saint Saens, except that it is a peak musical experience that has to be heard live? Moody’s interpretation, which treated the organ as simply a more powerful instrument of the orchestra, was almost flawless, beginning with the opening crescendo, which added voice after voice in different timbres until the ensemble reached full volume. I have seldom seen an audience more silently attentive as it was in the emotional Poco Adagio of the first movement.

The finale, with orchestra, percussion and organ at full volume, seemed about to make Merrill Auditorium start vibrating into Casco Bay. Hope that there are still some seats left for tonight’s concert.

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