The second summer season of the Strawberry Creek Music Festival opened last week with a program of standard Baroque fare played in rather standard fashion. This is not to say that the moderate-size audience in Smothers Theatre, Pepperdine University, left unimpressed.
Under the expert guidance of concertmaster/soloist Kathleen Lenski, the dozen or more professional and student musicians offered spirited ensemble work and occasional flights of virtuosity.
Still, one hoped for a bit more.
Holding center stage for Vivaldi's greatest hit--"The Four Seasons"--Lenski proved fully up to the challenges of these dazzling violin concertos, while demonstrating a refined sense of phrasing and embellishment. With only the slightest guidance from their leader, the players responded with a neatly balanced accompaniment, restrained in the slow movements and vigorous in the allegros.
Yet there was no apparent effort to discover something new in this overly familiar music. No depths were probed, no subtleties explored. One yearned for a sense of tension in the calm-before-the-storm Adagio from "Summer," for a feeling of unbridled joy in the opening of "Spring."
One also wished for a more audible harpsichord than the homely green instrument played by Patricia Mabee (like Lenski, one of several key players with past or present associations with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra). When she could be heard, Mabee offered tasteful accompaniments.
In Marcello's lyrical Oboe Concerto, Gerard Reuter brought warmth and spirit to his solo duties, while bending and swaying with the kinds of motions that would charm a cobra out of its basket. Playing a Baroque oboe (but with modern fingerings), Reuter milked the famous Adagio for all its worth and dashed off the outer movements with spirit.