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Symphony
A SLICE OF HEAVEN FROM THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, January 13, 2019
Under its vibrant new music director, Francesco Lecce-Chong, the Santa Rosa Symphony this past Sunday offered a nearly perfect afternoon of Mozart (Symphony No. 40) and Mahler (Symphony No. 4). While the two works share a common digit, the only element uniting them is genius. They made for a dazzlin...
Recital
KHOZYAINOV'S BRILLIANT PIANISM IN MILL VALLEY RECITAL
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, January 13, 2019
In its third concert of the season the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society Jan. 13 presented Russian virtuoso Nikolay Khozyainov. His intelligent and sensitive interpretations, masterful pedal work, and virtuoso technique left the near-capacity audience in Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church astounded and ...
Chamber
A COMPLETE MUSICAL PACKAGE IN ARRON'S OAKMONT RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, January 10, 2019
Cellist Edward Arron has been a welcome artist at the Music at Oakmont series, and after his Jan. 10 recital it’s easy to understand his popularity. His artistry is a complete package, with potent instrumental technique wedded to integral musical conceptions. In a nearly flawless concert with pian...
Choral and Vocal
COMPELLING WEILL HALL MESSIAH ORATORIO FROM THE ABS
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, December 15, 2018
Each holiday season when a Classical Sonoma reviewer is assigned to cover a concert with Handel’s seminal Oratorio The Messiah, the question arises about what new commentary can possibly apply to the often performed choral work. Well, if it’s the American Bach Soloists performing the piece, written...
Opera
PURCELL'S DIDO IN YOUTHFUL SSU OPERA
by Abby Wasserman
Wednesday, December 05, 2018
A doomed royal love affair, the theme of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, was brought to lovely life at Sonoma State University Dec. 5 in the school’s Schroeder Hall. Conducted by faculty member Zachary Gordin, who also played continuo, the performance was only the second opera production presented by the...
Symphony
SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY HERALDS THE HOLIDAYS
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 02, 2018
Antlers are typical headgear during the holiday season, but the ushers and one bassist at the Santa Rosa Symphony concert on Dec. 2 sported apples atop their heads. The red fruits were festive but perplexing until the orchestra began Rossini’s “William Tell” overture, at which point even the dull-wi...
Symphony
A HERO'S ODYSSEY IN SO CO PHIL CONCERT
by Art Hofmann
Sunday, November 18, 2018
The audience at the Sonoma County Philharmonic’s Nov. 18 concert was warned at the outset that the old Santa Rosa High School auditorium boiler was turned off, and there was a steady eminently audible tone in the hall. Conductor Norman Gamboa said the tone was an A, a high one. But there it was, a...
Recital
MTA BENEFIT CONCERT FEATURES FAURE, DVORAK, JANACEK AND BARBER WORKS
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 11, 2018
In a splendid concert Nov. 11 the Music Teachers Association of California, Sonoma County Chapter, presented their sixth annual benefit concert before 40 avid listeners in the Santa Rosa home of Helen Howard and Robert Yeats. Highlights of the performances, involving eight musicians in various perf...
Recital
SERKIN'S SINGULAR MOZART AND BACH PLAYING IN WEILL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 09, 2018
Returning to Weill Hall following a fire-related recital cancellation in 2017, pianist Peter Serkin programmed just three works in his Nov. 7 concert, three masterworks that challenged both artist and audience alike. It needs to be said at the outset that Mr. Serkin takes a decidedly non-standard a...
Chamber
LUMINOUS FAURE TOPS LINCOLN TRIO'S SPRING LAKE VILLAGE CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, November 07, 2018
Familiarity in chamber music often evokes warm appreciation, and it was thus Nov. 7 when the Chicago-based Lincoln Piano Trio made one of their many Sonoma County appearances, this time on the Spring Lake Village Classical Music Series. Regularly presented by local impresario Robert Hayden, the Lin...
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.