Valentine’s Day romantics must be getting bored with candy and flowers. Tuesday’s Valentine tribute by the Portland Symphony Orchestra was sold out, as couples of all ages filled Merrill Auditorium.

The program had something for everyone — Romantic: Tchaikovsky’s Overture-Fantasy from “Romeo and Juliet”; classical turned Romantic: The Mozart Concerto No. 21 for Piano and Orchestra (K.467); and modern Romantic: the Prokofiev Suite from his ballet “Romeo and Juliet” (Opus 64).

The orchestra, conducted by music director Robert Moody for the first time in a while, was on its best behavior, playing with the kind of precise passion it showed under guest conductor Dmitry Sitkovetsky in January.

The Tchaikovsky was everything it should be: sweet, lushly Romantic and harmonically delicious, like a box of good assorted Belgian chocolates. Any tragedy therein is like Romantic poetry — “old, unhappy, far-off things, and battles long ago.”

Maine pianist Henry Kramer’s performance of the Mozart Concerto was interesting from several viewpoints, but classical rather than Romantic. It was as technically flawless and precise as a faceted diamond, but its anthropomorphic content was contributed entirely by those audience members who had heard it in the context of “Elvira Madigan.”

I first heard Kramer long ago, when he played some difficult Ravel piano music. He played Mozart the same way, without rubato or a flowing and sostenuto melodic line.

I don’t know where the cadenzas came from, but they sounded quite contemporary and intellectual, without contributing much to emotional content.

Mozart, who enjoyed poking fun at overly emotional players or musical enthusiasts, would have loved it.

The grand tour-de-force of the evening was the Prokofiev “Romeo and Juliet” ballet suite (or portions thereof), interrupted by the appropriate passages from the play, narrated by actors from the Portland Stage Company.

Prokofiev’s music needs no verbal interpretation. He probably did not set out to out-do Tchaikovsky, but his ballet music is head and shoulders above any other interpretation. It is to music what Shakespeare’s plays are to literature, an evanescent but transcendent dream of love emerging from violence, tumult and bawdy humor.

The orchestra realized Prokofiev’s intentions almost perfectly. The soaring transformations of earlier themes swirling around the lover’s tomb were magical and sent the audience home in a Romantic fog.

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

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