Brahms Serenade

The Boston Phoenix, 10/7/05

by Lloyd Schwartz

Oboist Peggy Pearson’s Winsor Music opened its season at Lexington’s Follen Church with an appealing work in a fresh context Brahms’s big Opus 11 

Serenade for Orchestra, in a reconstruction close to Brahms’s original conception for nine string and wind instruments (using the later combination of oboe and clarinet rather than the original two clarinets). The performance was warm, vigorous, and utterly endearing, with a stellar ensemble including Neil Deland, particularly outstanding on the horn (Brahms’s dappled-light-and-shadows includes a lot of hunting music). A special treat came between movements, when Emmanuel Music’s Craig Smith talked feelingly about Brahms’s life, especially about the young composer's relationship with the Schumanns, Robert (whom he admired above all other living composers) and Clara (whom he adored all his life). This made a relatively short but thoroughly satisfying evening, because Smith’s touching words illuminated the music without lecturing and because the playing was so eloquent. We didn’t need to hear more.