The Portland Symphony Orchestra opened its 89th season at Merrill Auditorium Sunday with proof positive that there is no substitute for live music. There were nuances in the performances of the Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 4 and Prokofiev’s Fifth Symphony that have never been captured by electronics.

As one example, how many people have heard the piano part of the Prokofiev Fifth – subdued but necessary?

The most striking revelation came with the awe-inspiring performance of the Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 4 in G Major Op. 58, by Orli Shaham, that earned, for once, a really deserved standing ovation.

Shaham demonstrated that there is another way of “singing” on the piano – trills and passage work so rapid and even that the result is a sustained tone rather than individual notes.

It seems to me that the effect is exactly what Beethoven wanted, not meretricious ornamentation or show-off virtuosity.

(The above is a partial review. The full text will appear in the Portland Press Herald on Tuesday, Oct. 1.)