Certainly, that's a necessary quality in Mendelssohn's Symphony No. 4 ("Italian"), one of those pieces that's so all-around perfect and that so easily plays itself that it's hard to get any kind of a fresh reading. Aside from bringing his characteristic energy to the situation, Nézet-Séguin particularly succeeded in two movements: The first unfolded in a relaxed tempo that conveyed undriven exuberance, while the third movement had rhythmic precision and formality that convincingly suggested that the music is descended from a Haydn-era minuet. As well as Mendelssohn wore the outer garments of alternative nationalities, he was, at heart, Germanic.
Tchaikovsky's symphonic fantasia, Francesca da Rimini, gives you the works, orchestrally speaking, and in a performance as compelling as Nézet-Séguin's, you might momentarily forget that the first half doesn't have much thematic content and often acts like a Tchaikovsky symphony that keeps getting lost and throwing tantrums.
Though Respighi was at his best when composing opera, his Pines of Rome tone poem took the symphonic medium to new levels of graphic description with daringly animated orchestra writing, even if, given a blindfold test, its opening could easily be describing The Fountains of Rome or Roman Festivals (the two other parts of this trilogy).
Well, so what? The piece romps through the sections of the orchestra with a distinctive orchestral palette and the grandest of endings, using a brass choir (positioned in Verizon Hall's top tier) and organ. Nézet-Séguin brought to the piece good theatrical timing and a Dutoit-esque ear for sonority.
Verdi's La Forza del Destino overture had such a concentrated treatment of the primary melody that this was no mere concert performance, but one that looked specifically forward to the opera's dramatic content, which, as the title suggests, is about unstoppable tragedy. Indeed, Nézet-Séguin often seems most at home in opera, but more than most such specialists, successfully translates that sensibility to the most serious symphonic literature. Certainly, operatic qualities were present in last week's Brahms and never felt inappropriate.
8 p.m. Saturday at the Kimmel Center, Broad and Spruce Streets. Information: 215-893-1999 or www.philorch.org.
Contact music critic David Patrick Stearns at firstname.lastname@example.org.