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Oregon Music News; April 2, 2010

Looking Within is a recording that accents the introspective quality of several piano works by Schoenberg, Haydn, and Brahms. The CD, released in 2009 on the Eroica label, features pianist Beverly Serra-Brooks, who explores the inner voices of these composers with remarkable tenderness.

The album begins with Schoenberg’s “Sechs Kleine Klavierstucke” (Opus 19), which are six short (just over four minutes total) pieces that he wrote in 1911 and 1912. Serra-Brooks brings out their quizzical, inquiring and fragmentary nature. Providing a nice contrast to Schoenberg’s music, is Haydn’s Sonata “Un piccolo divertimento” Variations in F minor (Hob XVII:6). Serra-Brooks gives finely balanced yet warmly expressive performance of this gem, which Haydn wrote in 1793.

Brooks also plays several Intermezzi by Brahms, including Intermezzo Opus 119 No. 1, the Three Intermezzi Opus 117, and the Intermezzo Opus 118 No. 2. In Serra-Brooks hands, the first of the Three Intermezzi Opus 117 has a lilting melody at is haunting and soothing at the same time. Overall, the melancholic mood of these pieces come to the forefront in her playing.

In Serra-Brooks hands, the beloved Brahms Intermezzo Opus 118 No. 2 takes on a subdued and introverted tone. It’s a fine piece with which to close the cover of the album, but a more expansive and expressively Romantic sentiment would’ve been more satisfying – at least to my ears.

James Bash


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