Stravinsky's wryly sardonic little fable, "The Soldier's Tale," is one of those hybrid pieces of early 20th Century music theater that has led a nomadic life since its premiere in 1919. The story about a feckless soldier who strikes a Faustian bargain with the Devil turned up most recently here in 1998, when Steppenwolf Theatre replaced the original text with a new libretto by novelist Kurt Vonnegut.

The Chicago Symphony wisely stuck to the original for its first staging of the complete work Wednesday at Symphony Center, using a partly Steppenwolf cast and violinist Pinchas Zukerman as anchor of a seven-piece chamber ensemble. The results justified the CSO's belief in the musical merits of this strangely fascinating piece.

In Peter Amster's spirited staging, the septet held forth on a raised platform at center stage while actors John Mahoney (Narrator), Paul Adelstein (Soldier) and Hollis Resnik (Devil) and dancer Tina Cannon disported themselves on the darkened, amplified stage. All the performers were fine, with Resnik delectably over the top in her sinister guises. William Eddins conducted crisply, while Zukerman and friends pounced on the shifting meters and brittle textures like hungry tigers.

The first half of the 2=-hour program held Bach's first, second and sixth "Brandenburg" concertos, led by Zukerman from the violin and viola. These were big, modern readings, hearty in sound, innocent of current notions of authentic Baroque style. Like "Soldier's Tale," they represented a kind of enlarged chamber music.

The Second "Brandenburg" came off the best, no small thanks to Craig Morris' high-flying clarino trumpet. If the players are paid by the note, John Sharp, our stalwart continuo cellist, should be a millionaire by the fifth and final performance Sunday afternoon.

For tickets, phone 312-294-3000.