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Chamber
VANHAL QUARTET AT VOM FESTIVAL DISCOVERY AT HANNA CENTER
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, July 15, 2018
A near-capacity crowd of 220 filled the Sonoma Hanna Boys Center Auditorium July 15 for the opening concert of the fourth Valley of the Moon Music Festival. This Festival presents gems of the Classical and early Romantic periods performed on instruments of the composer’s era, which presents a few ch...
Opera
SPARKLING CIMAROSA OPERA HIGHLIGHTS MENDOCINO MUSIC FESTIVAL
by Kathryn Stewart
Friday, July 13, 2018
The Classical music era was a time of extraordinary innovation. Dominated by composers from the German-speaking countries, the period witnessed the handiwork of masterpieces by two classical giants, Haydn and Mozart. Both composers put forth a tremendous catalog of masterful works and perhaps to our...
Symphony
!PURA VIDA! A SONIC TRIUMPH FOR SO CO PHIL IN THRILLING COSTA RICA TOUR CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Long anticipated events, such as a great sporting game, gourmet feast, holiday trip or a concert, occasionally fall way short of expectations. The results don’t measure to expectations. With the Sonoma County Philharmonic’s Costa Rica concert June 19, the performance exceeded any heated or tenuou...
Symphony
SO CO PHIL BON VOYAGE CONCERT AN ODYSSEY OF CONTRASTING SOUND
by Terry McNeill
Friday, June 15, 2018
In a splashy bon voyage concert June 15 the Sonoma County Philharmonic Orchestra launched its June 17-25 Costa Rica tour, performing gratis in Santa Rosa’s Jackson Theater the repertoire for tour concerts in San José, Costa Rica’s capital, and in surrounding towns. Conductor Norman Gamboa pr...
Chamber
COMMANDING CHOPIN AND DEBUSSY IN SLV RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, June 06, 2018
Concerts at the classy Spring Lake Village Retirement Home in Santa Rosa have admission limited to residents and a few guests, but the chance to hear a first cabin North Bay pianist June 6 brought a Classical Sonoma reviewer into the audience of 100. The crowd numbers were unusually low due to a ba...
Recital
MUSICAL ALCHEMY INSIDE A HIDDEN GEM
by Kayleen Asbo
Friday, May 25, 2018
The Petaluma Historical Library and Museum is a hidden gem of Sonoma County, a gracious building that is one of Sonoma County’s loveliest venues for chamber music concerts, with a fine period piano particularly suited to Romantic music.  Of the surprisingly large array of festivities there, one of t...
Chamber
FINAL VOM MUSICIANS CONCERT IN SCHROEDER A SCHUBERT DELIGHT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, May 12, 2018
It's rare to have the opportunity to compare in a short period two performances of the same major Schubert work, in this case the great B Flat Piano Trio, D. 898. The chance came May 12 when the Valley of the Moon Festival musicians played it in Schroeder, just over a month since the Hall’s residen...
Symphony
FERRANDIS BIDS ADIEU WITH MAHLER’S FINAL SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, May 06, 2018
Sonoma State students in graduation robes posed for pictures and hugged each other at the university’s stone gates on Sunday afternoon, mirroring the prolonged farewells within the university’s Green Music Center, where Bruno Ferrandis bid adieu to the Santa Rosa Symphony after a dozen years at the ...
Symphony
SONIC SPLENDOR AT MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON FINALE
by Abby Wasserman
Tuesday, May 01, 2018
The Marin Symphony Orchestra ended the current season with a flourish, interpreting big and small works by Richard Strauss and Stravinsky. Strauss and Stravinsky were contemporaries for 40 years, but inhabited different worlds. Both composers were affected by cataclysmic changes and war, and musical...
Symphony
ORGAN SYMPHONY IN SSU ORCHESTRA CONCERT IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 29, 2018
Though Classical Sonoma seldom reviews student concerts, as ample North Coast concerts keep the staff of 11 reviewers busy. But the chance to hear the Sonoma State University Orchestra tackle St. Saëns’ majestic Organ Symphony April 29 was a rare opportunity and not easily to be missed. Avec l’...
SYMPHONY REVIEW
Santa Rosa Symphony / Saturday, November 08, 2008
Bruno Ferrandis, conductor
Gilles Apap, violin

Gilles Apap

APAP! GOES THE FIDDLE FOR SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY

by Steve Osborn
Saturday, November 08, 2008

In the publicity photo for his solo appearances with the Santa Rosa Symphony, violinist Gilles Apap is shown holding his instrument sideways, with the F-holes facing out and his goateed chin resting on the bottom edge, far from the actual chin rest. One assumes that the photo captures him in a moment of repose or contemplation, since playing the violin in such an awkward position would be virtually impossible. Impossible, it turns out, for anyone but Apap, who really does play his violin sideways, frontways, upways, downways — just about any which way but normal way.

Apap’s unorthodox approach to fiddling was evident before he even set bow to string in his Nov. 8 concert with the symphony. Accompanied by tuxedo-clad Maestro Bruno Ferrandis, he strode upon the stage wearing a black open-collar shirt, black pants and an impish grin. He then made a laugh-provoking comment to the orchestra — unintelligible to those of us in the distant reaches of the balcony — before wandering around in his designated space, trying to find the right spot.

When Apap finally started playing Alban Berg’s miraculous Violin Concerto, the tone that emerged was gorgeous and other-worldly. He exhibited masterful bow control and a wide, expressive vibrato well suited to the elegiac mood of the concerto, written “To the Memory of an Angel.” If one were to hear such playing on a recording, one would imagine a violinist firmly planted on the ground, striving mightily to keep bow glued to string while producing a fluid stream of sound.

The reality was quite different. Apap was constantly on the move, not only with his feet — which carried him all over the front of the stage and into the orchestra — but also with his left arm, which kept yanking his violin from normal position down into the nether reaches of his shoulder and chest. He punctuated the ends of phrases by pulling the violin away from his body, bow still attached, seemingly commanding the instrument to levitate of its own accord.

As the antics continued, one began to wonder if they were merely a sideshow or if they were actually connected to the music at hand. Maybe Apap goes through similar gyrations when he performs other concertos, but in this case the antics seemed to be in keeping with Berg’s music, which is often operatic and expressive in the extreme. In his Gypsy dance with the violin, Apap seemed to embody the conflicting emotions and pangs of love that propel Berg’s music. To be sure, Berg is mathematical and precise, but his concerto depicts the death of a young girl, the frustrations of his own illicit love affair, and the impending agony of the Nazi era. In the face of such an emotional overload, who wouldn’t strut and fret upon the stage?

The only complaint — and it is a familiar one — is the inadequacy of the acoustics in the Wells Fargo Center. Berg’s concerto is quite delicate, with a wealth of intricate passagework and contrasting dynamics. Much of this delicacy was lost in the muddy haze of the Person Theater, as was the tone of Apap’s violin, which didn’t seem quite as full as it could have been.

Acoustics were also a prominent feature of the opening work, György Ligeti’s “Lontano,” which begins pianissimo in the flutes and only rarely gets much louder. Like many of Ligeti’s compositions, “Lontano” quickly establishes an eerie, haunting atmosphere characterized by tremolos in the strings and iridescent tones from the woodwinds. The effect is spellbinding and filled with expectancy. In this case, however, the expectancy led nowhere, as the brief piece concluded before it could take off. One ended up wanting more.

Not to worry. “More” arrived not only with the Berg concerto, but also with Schubert’s lengthy Symphony No. 9. Aptly titled “The Great,” this magnificent work puts the full orchestra on display and requires unflagging intensity from beginning to end. Ferrandis happily supplied the intensity, propelling his musicians forward with a virtual whirlwind of arm gestures punctuated by a rock-steady baton. He set a tempo and kept to it, never flagging except when occasion demanded, as in the lilting melodies of the second movement. At these times, the orchestra slowed as one, then quickly accelerated to its previous beat.

Ferrandis is like a bird in flight, surveying the sonic landscape below, occasionally swooping into the various sections of the orchestra to bring them forward. The playing was exceptional throughout. The violins stayed on top of their demanding part, which ranges from intricate filigree to syncopated romp. The lower strings provided the rhythmic drive that characterizes Schubert’s symphony, coming through repeatedly with convincing and resonant lines. As for the woodwinds, brass and percussion, they blended in seamlessly, completing the glorious sound.

All in all, the performance was as much as one could ask for from a regional orchestra with a perpetually shifting cast of musicians. No matter where they come from, Ferrandis takes them all in and elicits a unified, unison sound. It’s amazing what two arms and a little upper-body movement can do.