For everyone needing pre-Christmas fortification – here it was! Two mighty works of art, monuments to the questing power of the human spirit.

A problem with Rachmaninov’s Second Piano Concerto is not just that it is so well known, but that so many listeners have their ideal performance of it firmly in mind. Some like it played straightforwardly, others revel in the full-blown romantic passion. Here Vadym Kholodenko tended to the ardent in his performance, but always in the service of music that felt honest and sincere.

James Feddeck, the brilliant young American conductor, who had stepped in at short notice to replace Ion Marin on the podium, made much of the light and shade in the work. His strong gestures seem to communicate clearly what he wants, and evidently the orchestra responds warmly to him.

After the interval, another youthful work, Mahler’s First Symphony, filled the second half of this impressive evening at the Lighthouse Arts Centre, Poole. Live performances in a vivid acoustic such as this make the experience of Mahler’s all-embracing vision so exciting and involving. Street music, nursery rhymes, the sounds of nature and eventually the very reverberations of the entire cosmos all exploded out of the orchestra as if some barely contained chemical reaction was going on.

Unanimous strings, precise winds, insistent brass and sharply choreographed percussion each took turns to provide their visions of the score. The final movement became an overwhelming experience, projected with almost unbelievable power and authority by the BSO.

If Rachmaninov told a story of love, loss and human experience, Mr Feddeck’s Mahler went further, pointing towards a way of encapsulating the whole of creation in symphonic sounds. The triumphant ending, building up through many carefully judged steps, was certainly an inspiring and fortifying Christmas gift from the unfailingly generous BSO.