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At Pepperdine : Lancaster, Virtuosi In 'Carnival'

February 10, 1986|ALBERT GOLDBERG

It could be that the music of Mozart, Saint-Saens and Schubert attracted the overflow audience to the Smothers Theater of Pepperdine University on Saturday night for a concert by a group that rather immodestly styles itself the California Chamber Virtuosi. More likely it was the presence of Burt Lancaster, an indisputable film star, to read the Ogden Nash verses for "Carnival of Animals" that attracted the mob.

In any case, it was an entertaining episode. Lancaster is much too professional to attempt to make a prima donna turn from his stint. He read the delectable verses nimbly, clearly and wittily, which is all that is called for, and he was ever aware that he was part of a cooperative effort. More would have been too much, less too little.

Although there is no real need for a conductor in this original chamber version of "Carnival of the Animals" for two pianos, five strings, flute, clarinet and xylophone, Henri Temianka conducted when necessary and presided over a lively performance.

Antoinette and John Perry dashed off the piano parts with crisp ensemble and an indispensable touch of lightness and wit. Richard Feves galumphed delightfully through the elephantine double bass solo, Timothy Landauer's cello did less than full justice to "The Swan," and Janice Tipton's flute and David Atkins' clarinet were precisely on target in their solos.

The piano playing of the Perrys (Mr. and Mrs.) easily dominated their respective ensembles. His playing in Mozart's Piano Quartet in G Minor, was sensitive, carefully gauged and delicately nuanced, with a slight inclination toward sweetness and sentiment.

He received little rich support from the wispy tone of violinist Sergiu Schwartz, or the rhythmically weak viola and cello of Roxann Jacobsen and Landauer.

Antoinette Perry combined agreeable aggressiveness with clear-cut style and tone in Schubert's "Trout" Quintet. It was superior Schubert in every respect and except for a rousing Scherzo it deserved more care and finesse from the string players.

In place of program notes Temianka commented in his usual fashion. In the program credits, he was alloted 35 lines of type, Lancaster was rewarded with 11 lines, and the supporting musicians who did all the work had to make do with six to eight lines.

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