Sometimes a program’s raison d’être becomes its stumbling block. That was the case with Art After the Catastrophe, the centerpiece concert of Bard SummerScape’s mini-festival devoted to the life and work of Erich Wolfgang Korngold, which was designed to showcase the composer’s sole large-scale orchestral work, his Symphony in F sharp major. The expansive composition, which dominated the entire first half of a nearly three-hour bill, proved ungainly and overindulgent, despite intelligent and committed playing from the American Symphony Orchestra, under Leon Botstein’s direction.

Korngold wrote the piece over the course of five years immediately following the Holocaust (the catastrophe of the concert’s overly academic title). Given the time period, it seems a distinct anomaly: how many composers were writing four-movement, hourlong harmonic symphonies in the late 1940s and early 1950s? And although Korngold folds hints of Expressionism into the textures of his opus – not to mention elements of his experience as Hollywood’s premier film composer (including a literal paraphrase from his score to The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex) – the work feels oddly shapeless, its dearth of interesting and challenging themes hardly justifying its disproportionate length.

Taken discretely, each movement had something to offer. The Adagio, Lento is the most distinctive on its own, with a dark quality that recalled a film noir soundtrack. (This movement is, however, hampered by a glaring false ending that zaps its tension a bit too openly.) The concluding Finale, Allegro gaio displayed the zip and polish associated with action-adventure music, the kind Korngold wrote for films like Captain Blood and The Adventures of Robin Hood, wedded to a parade of marches and fanfares that signal martial conflict. The opening Moderato, ma energico featured an elegant and wiry contribution from principal clarinet Shari Hoffman, and the Scherzo contained a dash of jagged dissonance that provoked true distress, however briefly. Taken altogether, though, the performance did not suggest a lost masterpiece awaiting its return to the repertory.

The rest of the evening proved more noteworthy – though not without flaws. Hindemith’s Symphonia serena (1946) addressed the dissociation and hopelessness bred by Nazi occupation, but with a lighter touch than Korngold’s barn-burning symphony. The ideas come swiftly but subtly, and as the title suggests, the composer occasionally lulls the listener into a false sense of serenity, before confronting them with a jarring revelation. This was particularly evident in the third-movement Colloquy for strings, which put concertmaster Cyrus Beroukhim in conversation with a violinist and violist playing from opposite sides of the Sosnoff Theater’s orchestra level. Their dialogue, which weaves klezmer influences into the fabric of Austro-German classicism, suggests the strong link between Jewish forms and Western music. (Though not Jewish himself, Hindemith was a target of persecution during the Third Reich, and ultimately emigrated to America.)

The concert concluded with a reading of Strauss’s Four Last Songs that was frustrating in its unfulfilled promise. Marjorie Owens possesses a spectacular instrument: a Zinfandel-dark soprano that, while not ample of volume, is attractive and enveloping. Yet as an interpreter, she did little to vary the mood or color of each text, and her liberal deployment of vibrato frequently obscured pitch. She couldn’t always execute Strauss’s melismatic writing with appropriate agility. And considering her status as a longtime ensemble member of Dresden’s Semperoper, her German diction was surprisingly unidiomatic.

Botstein did her no favors from the podium. Frühling was taken at such a slow pace that it more closely resembled a dirge than an ode to spring’s awakening. If this Lied – itself a metaphor for the promise of youth – emerges with a leaden sense of foreboding rather than ethereal blossoming, the devastating conclusion of Im Abendrot cannot properly land. Throughout the twenty-minute song cycle, Botstein seemed more focused on his musical forces than his soloist – in the context this created, Owens came across more as an interruption than the main event.