In conversation, pianist Carol Rosenberger betrays no bitterness--though one couldn't fault her if she did. Those who have followed her career know the story well: As a promising, 20-year-old musician, she was suddenly forced by polio to withdraw from the concert scene for nearly 10 years, thereby missing that crucial period when most reputations are made.

"The performances I do now are ones I call the good dates," says Rosenberger, who appears as soloist in Mozart's B-flat Concerto, K. 595, with Gerard Schwarz and the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra twice this week. "If it's something I want to do, I do it."

Still, if you listen closely, it's possible to detect a trace of chagrin--not about those lost years ("I'd be bitter if I could never perform again," she points out), but about the plight of women pianists in this country.

"Can you name one important American female pianist?" she asks, allowing scant time for an answer. "We are just not hot. Yet, audiences don't feel that way. There's never a lack of enthusiasm with them," she says.

"It's the people who put on the shows--the people who make the image. It's very complicated. If you think about it, it (the lack of women pianists) can't possibly mean that there aren't any of us who can communicate."

End of chagrin. Rosenberger, now in her mid-40s, expresses perfect contentment in mixing a number of music-related activities with "the good dates." (She readily includes her LACO appearances in that category, noting, "Anytime I can play with Gerry Schwarz I drop everything and do it.")

One activity that she has recently taken up particularly excites her: record producing. "I sort of backed into it," she says. "I began by editing some of my own recordings (for Delos)." Now she's produced two Delos discs--a Liszt program by pianist John Browning and a Handel-Bach program by soprano Arleen Auger.

Were there urges, especially in the Browning sessions, to go to the keyboard and take over? "None at all," she replies. "For me, the excitement was to make him feel comfortable and give him a performance."

And, she continues, there is another benefit from this new occupation. "I heard an interview with Herbert von Karajan--he's into editing his own recordings now. He said that after working on a recording of a Beethoven symphony, he conducted it in concert and felt he really knew the piece for the first time.

"My jaw dropped when I heard that, because I had felt the identical response. It (editing a recording) really points out things in the music you never saw before."

AT THE PHILHARMONIC: Mark Elder, music director of the English National Opera, will make his first Music Center appearances with the Los Angeles Philharmonic this week, leading performances of the oft-heard Piano Concerto No. 4 by Beethoven (with Krystian Zimerman as soloist), the less-often heard "Fidelio" overture by the same composer and the rarely-heard Symphony No. 3 by Rachmaninoff.

Zimerman will return to the Pavilion stage on April 2 for a Philharmonic-sponsored recital.

PEOPLE: With First Lady Nancy Reagan at his side for a recent White House ceremony, pianist Byron Janis announced that he will begin a series of benefit concerts to raise funds for the Arthritis Foundation. Janis admitted to suffering from the disease for 12 years. "I have learned to live with this disease and control it," he said. "If I can do it, so can others." . . . American soprano Jeannine Altmeyer will return to San Francisco Opera this summer, appearing in the second production of the complete "Ring" cycle, "Die Walkuere," not as Bruennhilde, which she sang before, but as Sieglinde, replacing Linda Esther Gray, who has canceled her appearances. . . . Ellen (a k a Elena) Bauer, formerly of Los Angeles Ballet, has joined National Ballet of Canada, dancing with that company as Ellen Bauer. . . . Joseph Cantor, organist at Temple Beth Am, was awarded $2,000 for his cantata "The Tower of Babel," as the result of a nationwide competition by the Jewish Music Commission of Valley Beth Shalom. Kantor's work will receive its premiere next Sunday evening at 7:30 at the Encino temple.

AROUND TOWN: In addition to its Wadsworth Theater appearance with soprano Renata Scotto tonight, the Tokyo String Quartet will appear at Laguna Beach High School on Tuesday and in a Music Guild concert Wednesday night in Wilshire Ebell Theatre.

Robert Page, director of choruses for the Cleveland Orchestra, will appear as guest conductor with the Los Angeles Master Chorale Saturday night for a performance of Haydn's "The Creation." Vocal soloists include Kaaren Herr Erickson, Glenn Siebert and Richard Crist.

A trio of pianists will appear under USLA auspices this week: Russell Sherman, in a program dominated by music of, or arranged by, Liszt, on Friday night in Royce Hall; Gary Steigerwalt, in a Pro Musicis-sponsored recital at Schoenberg Hall on Saturday, and Helene Wickett, who will appear as soloist in Prokofiev's Third Concerto with Melhi Mehta and the American Youth Symphony on next Sunday in Royce Hall.

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