Poetic Achievements

The Boston Phoenix, 4/15/05
by Lloyd Schwartz

On Saturday [April 9, 2005], La Fenice (“The Phoenix”) — oboist Peggy Pearson, Catherine Cho (violin), Maria Lambros (viola), Marcy Rosen (cello), and Diane Walsh (piano) — played in Pearson’s Winsor Music series at Lexington’s Follen Church. The concert ended with a compelling, loving — intense and relaxed — performance of the least programmed of Brahms’s piano quartets, the early A-major, Opus 26, which veers from intimate, almost inconsequential conversation to rhapsodic expostulation, from tender song to incisive rhythmic celebration.

Along the way were some rare treats including Pearson oboeing the clarinet part in her own transcription of Mozart’s lovely Kegelstatt Trio K. 498 (the greater liquidity of the clarinet works better, but Pearson never does anything without interest) and Pearson and Walsh playing a transciption of Clara Schumann’s three alluring Romances for Violin and Piano. These are so much a response to Robert Schumann’s three Oboe Romances, it’s hard to imagine them with anything but an oboe.

There was also the Boston premiere of Three Chorale Preludes, short Bach chorales orchestrated by three very different Boston composers: Peter Child, John Heiss, and John Harbison. Child’s oboe singing the hymn tune over the darker strings, Heiss’s surprising variations (including a brisk march), and Harbison’s harmonically seductive canons (this piece dates from 1962) were piquantly complementary. Three isn’t enough. May we have some more?