It begins with a bustling, harmonically pungent music that swings in a sweeping six-eight meter, though pesky inner rhythms refuse to keep in place. Running through the music are hints, it seemed, of Prokofiev and the Bernstein of the ''Candide'' Overture. When the tuba and trombone begin an extended episode evocative of Dixieland jazz, Mr. Freund's borrowings become too obvious. The last section of the piece corrects this, blending the jazzy elements into his own spiky voice. Mr. Santora and his exuberant players seemed to enjoy themselves immensely.
A performance of Beethoven's ''Emperor'' Concerto offered the pianist John Browning as soloist. Though a fixture on the local concert scene in his earlier years, Mr. Browning, now 67, had not performed in New York since 1995. His playing has lost little of its technical nimbleness.
This was a fleet-fingered, stylish and structurally lucid account of the work. It was not particularly searching, and somewhat reserved dramatically, a problem in a piece called the ''Emperor'' for good reason. Still, Mr. Browning's playing was admirable, and it was fun to experience the excitement of the young musicians onstage, many of whom, no doubt, were playing this repertory staple for the first time. They have yet to learn how to maintain energy at softer dynamics. Young musicians typically find security in overstatement. But they provided a refreshing break from the slick professionalism that major orchestras often bring to such an assignment.
After intermission Mr. Santora conducted an involving performance of Mahler's Symphony No. 1, the ''Titan.'' There were rough technical patches in the playing, which was to be expected. But these palpably engaged musicians played with impressive vigor, often poignant expressivity and an apt sense of Mahlerian ebb and flow.
The dynamic Mr. Santora, who begins his fifth and final season with the Youth Symphony in December, is unlikely ever to conduct a more enthusiastic ensemble. How often do you hear orchestra musicians whoop with excitement as they leave the stage after a successful concert?