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MASKED SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY CARRIES ON BRILLIANTLY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 15, 2020
In some ways the Santa Rosa Symphony’s Nov. 15 concert on YouTube resembled a Conceptual Art performance from the 1970s. On display were about 30 masked orchestral musicians playing six feet apart from each other on stage, some of them separated by plexiglass barriers. In the 1970s, the concept behi...
Chamber
SPLENDID STRINGS IN A SUNLIT GARDEN
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, November 1, 2020
A sun-drenched autumn afternoon, a Marin County garden and six superb string players from the Santa Rosa Symphony were manna from heaven to a pandemic-weary audience starved for live music. The sextet of Santa Rosa Symphony musicians performed to a small group of 20 Nov. 1, the day after Halloween....
Chamber
EXAMPLARY QUARTET PLAYING IN MARIN GARDEN CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, October 22, 2020
Taped video concerts have pretty much dominated the recent fare for classical music fans, but sporadic live music making can still be found in the North Bay with outdoor chamber music. Of course with the obligatory social distancing and often decorative facial masks. Four San Francisco Opera Orc...
Chamber
VIDEO CHAMBER MUSIC FROM LINCOLN CENTER IN GREEN'S BROADCAST
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, October 17, 2020
Along with hosting its resident the Santa Rosa Symphony, Weill Hall has contracted to produce sporadic virtual programs of classical music, and began Oct. 17 with a charming three-part concert from the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in New York. Hosted with comely introductions by CMSLC di...
Symphony
THRILLING SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY PERFORMANCE IN AN EMPTY WEILL HALL
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, October 11, 2020
Viewers of the Santa Rosa Symphony’s inaugural socially distanced YouTube concert on Oct. 11 could be forgiven for thinking they had stumbled upon a performance of Verdi’s “Un Ballo in Maschera” (A Masked Ball), given that the string players in the opening shot all wore black masks. The sole excepti...
Symphony
BROWN VIDEO GALA LAUNCHES SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, September 12, 2020
Similar to many North Coast musical organizations the Santa Rosa Symphony has scheduled a series of virtual concerts on video, spotlighting sections of the orchestra and the exuberant activities of its conductor Francesco Lecce-Chong. However, as an introduction to the season, a Sept. 12 gala vide...
SONGS AND ECHOES OF HOME IN AIZURI QUARTET CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, March 8, 2020
From the first richly layered harmonies of Dvořák’s Cypresses, the Aizuri Quartet held the March 8th audience at Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church in thrall. The church was more than half full, a good crowd considering present anxiety about the spread of the coronavirus. Taking precautions, the M...
COLORFUL BORN BACH AT AGAVE BAROQUE'S SCHROEDER HALL CONCERT
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Friday, February 28, 2020
Bach’s obituary records that “Johann Sebastian Bach belongs to a family that seems to have received a love and aptitude for music as a gift of Nature to all its members in common.” Agave Baroque presented their Feb. 28 concert, Born Bach, as a partial musical story of several generations in this rem...
ECLECTIC VIOLIN AND PIANO WORKS IN VIRTUOSIC MILL VALLEY RECITAL
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, February 23, 2020
Blending virtuosity with sublime artistry, violinist Alexander Sitkovetsky and pianist Wu Qian gave the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society audience many thrills February 23, performing four muscular and soulful works by four composers from four countries: de Falla, Schumann, Stravinsky, and Grieg. T...
PREMIER OF KAIZEN AND DRAMATIC MOZART HIGHLIGHT ECHO CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, February 16, 2020
As concertgoers took their seats in San Anselmo’s First Presbyterian Church for ECHO Chamber Orchestra’s February 16 program, they were surprised to see at center stage two bass drums, a tom-tom, bongos, high hat and cymbals. It was the occasion of the world premiere of "Kaizen," composed and perf...
SYMPHONY REVIEW
Santa Rosa Symphony / Saturday, November 8, 2008
Bruno Ferrandis, conductor
Gilles Apap, violin

Gilles Apap

APAP! GOES THE FIDDLE FOR SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY

by Steve Osborn
Saturday, November 8, 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.