A 10th season of the Malibu Strawberry Creek Music Festival began with an easy-listening, chamber-music program played by mixed teams of faculty and students, with variable results. But the event's best intentions were sabotaged by Pepperdine University's unpleasantly loud and strident, if visually elegant and--Saturday night at least--sold-out, 124-seat Raitt Recital Hall.
The best music-making came first, pianist Val Underwood providing moments of exceptional beauty and poetry in Poulenc's Trio for oboe, bassoon and piano; and last, with Mitchell Lurie--whose career began at age 16 when he played Mozart's Clarinet Concerto with the Los Angeles Philharmonic under Otto Klemperer--showing in Mozart's Clarinet Quintet that he can still produce a masterfully sculptured phrase.
In between, Triole--formerly known as the Camellia Trio, winners of the Russell Award at the 1991 Coleman Chamber Music Competition--played George Heussenstamm's attractive Seven Etudes, Opus 39, the composer in attendance, with modest skill and persuasion, after which harpist Mary Dropkin and friends played Ravel's Introduction and Allegro with enthusiasm but little feeling for the character of the music.
The festival's remaining Malibu concerts (scheduled for the much larger, better-sounding Smothers Theatre) will offer chamber music next Saturday and the Festival Baroque Orchestra, with soprano Juliana Gondek and cellist Ofra Harnoy, Aug. 7. Three outreach chamber-music concerts are also scheduled, at Second Baptist Church, at Pacific Palisades Presbyterian Church and at the L.A. County Museum of Art.