After a month-long diet of wall-towall Stravinsky, not all of it guaranteed to be palatable to all tastebuds, CBSO audiences were returned on Tuesday to more accustomed meat-and-two-veg fare.
This particular programme has proved so enticing a sell-out that a repeat performance has been hastily arranged, but the evening opened very disappointingly with a soggy reading of no less passionate a piece than Tchaikovsky's Romeo and Juliet Fantasy-Overture.
A surprisingly imprecise beat from conductor Massimo Zanetti resulted in woolly attack and ensemble from a depressedsounding CBSO, each event in this vivid score following each other with little sense of drama, and Tchaikovsky's fastidious part-writing emerging as noisy and unbalanced.
It seemed like a different conductor for Mendelssohn's delicious Italian Symphony, Zanetti's baton now flicking out electricity in an account packed with lively incident. I have rarely heard woodwind filigree in this work so elegantly shaped, nor the bass tread of the slow movement delivered with such lightness of touch. And the concluding Saltarello was simply jet-propelled.
But it was the Third Symphony of Saint-Saens which had drawn the audience (some of whom couldn't wait to leap to their feet and cheer at the end), and this performance did not disappoint.
Once a CBSO warhorse, redolent of the gas-lamps in the dear old Town Hall, this tremendous piece took on a new lease of life at the opening of Symphony Hall's magnificent organ, and here, all acoustic doors open wide, organist Thomas Trotter delivered the goods with relaxed aplomb, selecting registrations which, whether full-blown or intimately withdrawn, were simply stunning.
Releasing the orchestra's innate athleticism and singing qualities, Zanetti allowed the score to make all its own points, and the result was immensely satisfying.
* Repeated Monday (7.30pm). Running time one hour 55 minutes.