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.