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Swiss harpist; Yankee raconteur; Italian commedia fables; 'Giselle'

Swiss harpist Andreas Vollenweider came to the Berklee Performance Center last Sunday preceded by great expectations:

* Mood pianist George Winston calls him ''truly an inspiration.''

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* Carly Simon, stirred ''to the core,'' rushed in to produce his New York concert.

* He is considered a sensation in Europe, where 159 of his last 160 shows were sold out, and his latest album was voted Pop Album of the Year by Audio magazine (Germany), edging out Michael Jackson's ''Thriller.''

That said, I found the first Boston concert by Vollenweider ''and friends'' - an eclectic display of ethereal mood music and atmospheric tonal wanderings - slightly disappointing. My biggest beef is that it was short on Vollenweider and long on ''friends.''

There's no question that his backup foursome - using drums, percussion, wind instruments, and keyboard - is very talented. Each one stood in the spotlight for extended solos on everything from clarinet, sax, and drums to flute, xylophone, and accordion. All this in music that ran the gamut from Latin to Oriental to jazz to soft rock.

It wasn't until far into the second of three uninterrupted sets that Vollenweider started on a riff of his own. Hugging his electro-acoustic harp, he strummed, raked, plucked, and seemed destined for the cosmos. Rhythm and bass were kept with his left palm striking the longer strings in front. Improvisations came from the right, hitting staccato in the upper registers. The combinations of effects of two hands against 47 strings is astounding. But then he stopped short - never to solo again.

The group should realize that what he has to offer - highly stylized harp playing on a customized instrument - is new and unique. The others, talented as they are, are not.

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