The 90th season of the Portland Symphony Orchestra recently got underway with a varied and powerful program on Sept. 30. Music Director Robert Moody started things off with a rousing performance of the national anthem. (It seems, since the second world war, sporting events and classical concerts are now viewed as patriotic events, and I thought I heard someone exclaim “play ball” when it was over.)

The proceedings got underway in earnest with a mach 3 rendition of “A Festive Overture” by the great 20th-century composer Dmitri Shostakovich. Often even a trifle by a significant composer still bears the imprint of a master and this work is a good example. It begins and ends with a brass fanfare, has a soaring melody sonorously played by the violins, and a puckish solo superbly executed by principal clarinetist Thomas Parchman.

Back in the 19th century, folks expected and experienced concerts that were frequently twice the length of present-day events. The first performance of Beethoven’s Fantasia for Piano, Chorus and Orchestra is but one example. Other works on that same memorable program included first performances of his fourth and fifth symphonies, a concert aria, and three movements from his mass.

The piano soloist was Henry Kramer. On the basis of what I heard, this young man should have a long and brilliant career in his future. His playing was at turns passionate, and delicate where the music required different pianistic touches. And, oh yes ”“ he played all the right notes, too.

There were fanfare-like passages for the oboes and horns, and adroit playing by the rest of the orchestra. Moody asked for and received the quality and quantity of sound from the Choral Art Society, prepared ever so well for this, and the Janacek work by Dr. Robert Russell. To be sure, the choral part sounded like Beethoven got the tune right in his 9th symphony, including that inspiring change of key. Let it be said, however, that it sounded right, and just fine as it appeared in this composition.

After intermission, Moody performed Humoresqeue by Dvorak, arranged by Adolf Schmid. This lovely piece was performed by the predecessor of the PSO at its first concert 90 years ago. “I love the PSO” pins and delicious chocolates were given to the audience to commemorate the event. He also recognized former conductor Paul Vermel, who was in the audience and who will conduct in the concluding concert of the season.

The principal work of the program was the Glagolitic Mass by the Czech composer Leon Janacek. This complex work is a fine example of a deeply religious work composed by someone who may not have been overtly religious. The music supports and reflects the spirit of the text much more so then more modern music for worship. Performing were a quartet of really fine soloists (Angela Fout Nolle, Rita Litchfield, Daniel Stein and Aaron Engebreth) and also organist Ray Cornils, who demonstrated his virtuosity on the newly restored Kotzschmar organ. Moody was in charge all the way, knew this work and brought out the considerable best in this orchestra. The brass got a workout throughout, timpanist Jon Panzer received recognition along with others. The concert will be broadcast on MPBN on Oct. 15 at 8 p.m. This quality of this performance bodes well for other significant performances this year.

— Dr. Gold is a composer, conductor and an arts reviewer for the Journal Tribune.