Preparations are already underway at Severance Hall for next week’s performances of Richard Strauss’s Daphne, including a green floor covering on the stage that reflected a faint greenish glow on The Cleveland Orchestra during this week’s concert. It was as if the orchestra members were residents of the Emerald City of Oz. This week’s verdant program, with its dual themes of nature (Beethoven’s “Pastoral” symphony) and domesticity (Strauss’s Symphonia domestica), was, in a sense, a musical prelude to next week’s opera. Franz Welser-Möst conducted.

With his Symphony No. 6 in F major, op. 68, Beethoven set the stage for later Romantic composers in the concept of not just imitating nature in music – which had, of course, been done for several centuries – but depicting extra-musical concepts such as happiness and country life. Beethoven paved the way for Hector Berlioz and, almost a century later, the symphonic tone poems of Richard Strauss.

The “Pastoral” symphony is straightforward, without the dramatic angst of Beethoven’s fifth and third symphonies. The five movements (the last three of which are continuous) depict good feelings of being in the country, a flowing brook, a country dance, a summer thunderstorm and its calm aftermath.

Franz Welser-Möst led a performance that was fluid, with room for flexible phrasing, at times urgent, but never losing the essentially pastoral notion of the symphony. The lightly orchestrated second movement was gentle and serene, with the call of the nightingale, quail and cuckoo near its end. The third movement scherzo was a rustic country dance in triple meter, changing to a foot-stomping duple meter for the center section, and returning to the fleet scherzo. The thunderstorm of the fourth movement must have been sensational to those early-18th century listeners, while in the fifth movement the cycle of life continued, with swirling strings and a matter-of-fact final cadence that ends the symphony in low gear. This performance didn’t break new interpretive ground; it was a satisfying reading of a beloved symphony.

Richard Strauss’s Symphonia domestica, op. 53, was the ninth and penultimate of Strauss’s major tone poems, following Ein Heldenleben. It was composed in 1902-03 and was first performed at Carnegie Hall in New York in 1904 with the composer at a “Strauss Festival” in the Spring before his 40th birthday. He was yet to composer his twin shocker operas Salome (1905) and Elektra (1909) and the final tone poem An Alpine Symphony appeared in 1915.

Symphonia domestica requires a huge orchestra, including four optional saxophones, which the Cleveland Orchestra seems to have opted out of. It portrays a single day in the Strauss household, Husband (Richard), Wife (Pauline) and Baby (known as “Bubi”) The family life is sometimes tranquil, sometimes chaotic. Pauline was famously shrewish and argumentative. (Strauss’s opera Intermezzo is based upon one of their fights.) Yet Richard and Pauline were married for more than fifty years. Strauss highlights musically the difference between Husband and Wife: His theme is heard in soft F major; Hers is in a shrieking high-pitched B major. The two keys are as tonally unrelated as they can be, separated by a dissonant augmented fourth, or tritone, the so-called “devil in music.”

The symphony introduces and develops the musical themes in the context of a busy household, with Baby laughing and playing. The clock chimes 7 pm, and the music calms for the central adagio of the symphony. It is a lovemaking scene depicted in music. No words are required to know what is going on in Strauss’s glorious music. Later there is a mysterious passage with harp and strings depicting the dreams of Husband and Wife about their baby. The clock strikes 7 am, whereupon the finale is a joyous double fugue, first in winds and brass, later in the strings. The music bustles with activity, almost turning cacophonous at one point. There are many incidental solos along the way, notably for the solo violin, sensitively played by concertmaster William Preucil. After a tranquil, almost folksy passage, the music again gains momentum leading to a thrilling ending for Strauss’s paean to domesticity.

The Symphonia domestica is extremely complicated technically, and since it has not been performed by the Cleveland Orchestra since 1996, it is likely that for many of the players this was their first outing with the work. It set a daunting challenge, combined with the preparation for next week’s Daphne. The orchestra gave an accomplished performance, yet it sometimes seemed unsettled and tentative, lacking the precision and assuredness for which The Cleveland Orchestra is renowned. I suspect that the second performance of the program on May 28 will be even better.