June gloom lifted appreciably Saturday night with the summer’s first appearance of the Music Academy of the West Festival Orchestra, led by Larry Rachleff at the restored Granada.

The 90-member symphony orchestra always sounds splendid, with new young students coming to the academy from all over the United States and, in some cases, from foreign countries. All are top soloists in their customary venues, seizing the opportunity to enhance their musical education in Santa Barbara for the summer term.

Two contrasting works were chosen for the evening, the Symphony No. 1 of Johannes Brahms and the cacophonous Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks by Richard Strauss. Although both date from the late 19th century, the style of the pieces could scarcely be more different.

Brahms spent more than 15 years composing his first symphony. Musicologists speculate that it took so long because Brahms was laboring under the burden of having been compared to Ludwig van Beethoven by Robert Schumann early in his composing career.

Brahms said of this comparison: “You have no idea how the likes of us feel when we hear the tramp of a giant like him behind us.” But Brahms need not have worried. He quickly took his place among the list of great Austro-Hungarian composers.

Saturday evening’s concert was filled with horn music, not only from the Brahms piece but from Strauss’ Merry Pranks. The latter’s father was renowned in his day as a great horn player and teacher. The younger Strauss used horn motifs in this tone poem to describe the antics of Till Eulenspiegel, a kind of folk hero/rogue in German-speaking cultures.

In his conducting, Rachleff demonstrated his signature empathy for young musicians. A veteran of the Music Academy’s summer season, he is also the music director of the Rhode Island Symphony, the Rice University Shepherd School Orchestras and the Chicago Philharmonic. Formerly a faculty member at the esteemed Oberlin Conservatory of Music, Rachleff has a reputation as a vigorous advocate of music education.

Now that the academy season is off to a flying start, audiences can look forward to many more concerts, in venues large and small. Master classes are also open to the public at the academy, which is situated in Montecito overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

Offerings to come include Tuesdays at Eight at Hahn Hall on the academy campus, and many more picnic concerts, where listeners are urged to bring picnic suppers to enjoy the outdoor ambiance before the music. A full concert and class schedule is available by calling 805.969.8787.

— Margo Kline covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributor. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk or @NoozhawkNews.