Now to Serious Stuff, Moore or Less

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Dudley Moore is best known for his comedic roles as a composer in midlife crisis infatuated with Bo Derek in the 1979 film "10" and as a lovable drunk in 1981's "Arthur."

Younger viewers may know Moore better for his '90s television collaborations with conductors Michael Tilson Thomas ("Concerto!") and Sir Georg Solti ("Orchestra!").

This weekend, Moore performs in a symphonic concert as the piano soloist at the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts. The program includes Saint-Saens' "Carnival of the Animals" (with Moore also serving as narrator and Rena Frucher at the second piano) and Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue."

And the conductor is?

"I don't know," Moore said.

The orchestra?

"I don't know," Moore said.

"I just show up."

There will be at least one rehearsal, Moore explained in an early morning phone conversation from his home in Marina del Rey. So he will find out before the concert that his conductor is Michael Lankester, who will also lead the pickup orchestra in Rossini's Overture to "William Tell" and Tchaikovsky's "Romeo and Juliet."

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Moore, 60, said that he may do some pianistic parodies, such as Frederic Chopin playing old English musicals, or Schubert's "Flabbergast." As for his collaboration with the English-born Lankester, who is music director of the Hartford (Conn.) Symphony, it looks as if he may wing that too.

"Oh yes, oh yes," Moore said. "The interpretation, it's the same sort of thing for most performances, unless you're doing something outrageous. . . . We go over speeds and tempi, but I have found all the conductors I've worked with to be wonderful."

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There was one exception--whom Moore declined to specify, except to say, "He was all over the place."

But that just goes to show that Moore's almost universal admiration for the conductors he's worked with doesn't mean he's not discriminating.

On that score, Moore takes his cue from Solti.

"He doesn't like swimming, which I must confess I agree with," Moore said.

Swimming?

"He doesn't like [conductors] who throw their arms about," Moore explained. "Solti didn't like the idea of the beat [coming long] after the conductor's made the sign. I prefer the conductors who don't have swimming movements, who conduct and have the beat there. It's very difficult to follow a beat that is vague." With Solti, he said, "the beat stops by his gesture, and that's it. No strange waggling of hands and arms going on."

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Moore grew up in Dagenham, England, a working-class suburb of London. He began playing piano at age 6; he became a choirboy at 9; at age 12 he was studying violin at London's Guildhood School of Music.

Moore holds "a psychiatric theory" that the reason he didn't excel in piano while growing up is because he didn't want to play better than his mother, a pianist who, he said, "wasn't terrifically good. Anyway, that may be one reason." (He gave up violin at 22.)

He nevertheless earned bachelor's degrees in music and composition from Oxford University. At Oxford, he combined study of classical music with jazz "as a way to ingratiate myself with girls." He made two jazz albums with Cleo Laine.

His latest album is "Songs Without Words" (GRP), not the familiar piano pieces by Mendelssohn, but Moore's own "romantic ballads."

He also heads the advisory board of New York-based Music for All Seasons, which provides live music to hospitals, boarding schools and prisons throughout the region. Moore and his third wife, Nicole Rothschild, had their first child, a boy, in July.

These days, with film and TV work spotty, the concert stage has been Moore's primary focus.

"I've been on tour, as it were, since 1980," he said. "I do about two concerts a month, which means [there's time for] a lot of practice in between."

* Dudley Moore performs Friday with an orchestra conducted by Michael Lankester at the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts, 12700 Center Court Drive, Cerritos. 8 p.m. Also Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. $25-$48. (800) 300-4345 or (310) 916-8500.

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