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Making the Liszt

During spring break, Malibuites are more likely to hit London for good Will Shakespeare and good Queen Bess than drive downtown for culture. Families are looking for Leonardo (the painter) in Italy and “inning” near Innsbruck. It’s either phenomenal parenting or great airfare.

For those making the most of Malibu, a weeknight slide into Smothers wards off the culture police for the rest of the semester.

Next Thursday’s Pepperdine Community Symphony at Smothers Theatre makes the “A” Liszt. The concert opens with a romantic symphonic poem, Les Preludes, by Hungarian born Franz Liszt (1811-1886). At 16 minutes in length, the piece is fine for your fourth-grader just getting started on an instrument.

The long line of ladies in love with Liszt won’t earn him composer-of-the- month status at elementary schools. But he’ll always have Paris (and a few idyllic interludes in Switzerland). Parents prefer to emphasize his Weimar period (1848-1861) in which Liszt’s chief orchestral works were composed. In later years he turned to the church, composed religious works and was known in Rome, Weimar and Budapest as Abbe Liszt.

In the central portion of the bill, three young role models are soloists. Anne Marie Power, a senior at Santa Monica High, performs the allegro from Mozart’s bassoon Concerto in B flat major, K. 191. Violinist Kevin Lee, a junior at Thousand Oaks High, plays the allegro non troppo from Symphonie Espagnole, Op. 21, by Eduardo Lalo. Amy Tu, a senior at Oak Park High, performs the andante sostenuto from piano Concerto in G minor, Op. 22, by Camille Saint-Saens.

Conductor Thomas Osborn directs four concerts each year at Pepperdine, conducts the university orchestra at venues such as Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza and conducts the Downey Symphony. And he teaches.

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Another of Osborn’s pleasures is the assembly program he created to introduce orchestral instruments to young people (Malibu students were among the enlightened March 3 at Pepperdine). The professor says that one appeal of featuring high school soloists at Smothers is to bridge school music programs and university-level studies. Then there’s the inspiration factor.

“A child sees someone close to him in age and says, ‘I can relate to that. I can do that.’ In fact, any kid can do this if they put their mind to it.”

After intermission comes the cool stuff. Sergei Prokofiev’s Lieutenant Kije Suite is a Jim Carrey salute to Danny Kaye. Sort of. Prokofiev (1891-1953) scored the film in 1933 and spun the suite a year later. His symphonic suite premiered in the States in 1937, the year we lost Gershwin. The story is of an officer who doesn’t exist. So he has to be invented. We’ve heard far worse sitcoms.

Pepperdine University Dance Company performs an original ballet choreographed by director Diane Linder. This time around, Prokofiev’s music inspires a dream circus, replete with tightrope walker. Linder, who joined the faculty last fall as adjunct professor of dance, most recently directed the spring student production, “Dance in Flight.”

Kije clocks in at 25 minutes. Middle-schoolers can catch Kije and company or “Friends” and “Frasier.” Go with the music.

Pepperdine University Community Symphony, Smothers Theatre, April 8, 8 p.m. $10. Call 456-4522.

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