The Portland Symphony Orchestra and its audiences will be taking a split-focus view of the ensemble this year. With three candidates for the music director’s position leading both classical and pops concerts, anyone concerned about the orchestra’s future will be doing lots of close listening and armchair handicapping. But it is also Robert Moody’s 10th and final season on this orchestra’s podium, and he is leading five of its nine classical programs, with second looks at some of the work he conducted during his decade here, as well as additions to his Portland repertory.

Moody opened the season on Tuesday evening at Merrill Auditorium with a program that was largely retrospective. He began with Arturo Márquez’s “Danzón No. 2,” a colorful piece from his own audition concert in 2007, and closed the program with Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition,” a work he led during his first season. Between them, he presented something new, the American premiere of Hans-André Stamm’s Concerto for Organ and Orchestra, a 1998 work that let him draw the Kotzschmar Organ into the festivities.

That combination of works required some serious gear-shifting, and the orchestra’s performance reflected the program’s diffuse quality: Often, the playing seemed to be on the verge of catching fire, yet for one reason or another – a moment of slack ensemble, rhythmic imprecision in a prominent line, conductorial affectation – it never quite ignited.

This was particularly so in “Pictures at an Exhibition.” Filled with evocative character sketches based on paintings and drawings by Mussorgsky’s friend Victor Hartmann and brought to life as much by Maurice Ravel’s masterly orchestration as by Mussorgsky’s piano score, the piece should sweep listeners into Hartmann’s fascinating, if sometimes dark, folkloristic or just plain peculiar visions.

Mostly, the performance seemed more like perusing Hartmann’s pictures on the small screen of your phone, rather than being enveloped by them as you walked through a museum. One problem was the number of long pauses Moody put between several movements, which interrupted the flow of pictures and promenades. Even his one truly inventive touch – adding an organ part to the finale, “The Great Gate of Kiev” – wasn’t enough to give his reading the grandeur the piece demands.

That said, there was some admirable playing from the orchestra’s wind and brass choirs and individual players, both in “Pictures” and throughout the concert. The Márquez “Danzon,” for example, began with a beautiful rendering of its opening clarinet line by Thomas Parchman, the orchestra’s principal clarinetist, and there was some superb brass and percussion playing in this evocation of Cuban dance and ballad styles. But this was offset by tepid stretches that gave the impression that, after a few minutes, the players lost interest in Márquez’s zesty toe-tapper.

The Stamm Organ Concerto seemed more promising, in prospect, but proved nearly as puzzling. At his pre-concert talk, Moody said that he and his soloist, James Jones (who, he also pointed out, is his partner of 11 years) were searching for an unusual work for organ and orchestra and found the Stamm on YouTube.

Judging from Moody’s and Jones’ comments about the work – and the fact that Stamm, a German composer, born in 1958, is an organ virtuoso – you might have expected a dazzling solo organ part, with the orchestra tagging along. But the solo organ line, while certainly appealing, was surprisingly subdued and so thoroughly tucked into the orchestra fabric that, for stretches, you could be forgiven for forgetting that this was a concerto.

Jones, who also played the brief organ addition in “Pictures,” gave the organ line a dignified, focused performance, but most of the ear-catching action was in the cinematic sweep of Stamm’s orchestration. And cinematic is the word: Much of the piece sounded as though it would be at home supporting images on the big screen, its gentler passages in the second movement having the pastoral quality of a nature film and its more rhythmically vital outer movements having more of a swashbuckling quality.

Orchestras traditionally open their seasons with “The Star-Spangled Banner,” something that usually doesn’t require comment, unless the anthem is played in an unusual arrangement. Moody observed that tradition, and however the audience may have felt about the protests taking place at football games (and the tweet-storm from the White House), virtually everyone stood, and many sang along.

Allan Kozinn is a former music critic and culture writer for The New York Times who lives in Portland. He can be contacted at:

[email protected]

Twitter: kozinn