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Symphony
SONIC SPLASH AND ENSEMBLE DELICACY AT SO CO PHIL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 18, 2017
Franck’s wonderful D Minor Symphony is a rarity on today’s concert programs, and I can’t remember a North Bay performance in many years from any of the six resident area orchestras. So it was good to see the Sonoma County Philharmonic feature it in their Nov. 18 and 19 concerts at Santa Rosa High S...
Chamber
TETZLAFF QUARTET'S MASTERY IN MOZART AND SCHUBERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 11, 2017
German violin virtuoso Christian Tetzlaff presented a critically successful Weill Hall recital Feb. 18, and returned to the same venue Nov. 11 with his admirable Tetzlaff Quartet in a program of Berg, Schubert and Mozart. Clarity of ensemble has always been a hallmark of this Quartet, and contrapun...
Chamber
RAVISHING SHORT OPERAS FROM FRENCH TROUPE IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 10, 2017
Standard Weill Hall fall and winter classical programs are pretty routine – symphonic music, chamber, solo recitals – so it was a rare treat Nov. 10 when just two works from the 17th century were gloriously presented. With such specialized compositions, period performers with commanding authenticit...
Symphony
MEI-ANN CHEN PROVES A WORTHY CONTENDER FOR SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY CONDUCTING POST
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 05, 2017
These days the focus of Santa Rosa Symphony concerts is as much on the conductor candidates as on the soloists. This past weekend’s concerts featured the second of those candidates, Mei-Ann Chen, along with pianist Nareh Arghamanyan, each of whom cut an imposing figure on the stage. Chen is diminut...
Symphony
TO RUSSIA WITH BRILLIANCE
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 03, 2017
Russian pianist Denis Matsuev’s high velocity and frequently slam-bang virtuosity came to the Green Music Center last year with a thrilling and equally perplexing solo performance. So many in Weill Nov. 3 were interested to hear if his pianistic style would mesh well in a concerto, and with a fine ...
Symphony
THUNDEROUS TCHAIKOVSKY FOURTH OPENS MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Tuesday, October 31, 2017
North Coast weather is turning cool and the nights longer, ideal for Tchaikovsky’s big boned symphonies. The Santa Rosa Symphony recently programmed the Fourth (F Minor Symphony) as did the San Francisco Symphony. Norman Gamboa’s Sonoma County Philharmonic just played the Tchaikovsky First, forgoi...
Recital
RESPIGHI'S PUNGENT SONATA HIGHLIGHTS KENNEY-GUTMAN RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, October 29, 2017
Respighi’s B Minor Violin Sonata seems never to gain conventional repertoire status. Perhaps the great Heifetz recording is intimidating, and I can recall over many years just two local performances: Jason Todorov and William Corbett-Jones years go in Newman, and a titanic reading in March by Anne S...
Chamber
MIRÓ QUARTET AND JEFFERY KAHANE PROVIDE MUSICAL RELIEF FOR FIRE-RAVAGED SONOMA COUNTY
by Steve Osborn
Saturday, October 28, 2017
Sonoma County’s Green Music Center has stood silent but unscathed the past few weeks as the county begins to recover from the devastating fires that began on the evening of October 8, only a few hours after a Santa Rosa Symphony concert in the Music Center. Since then, concerts by the Symphony, the ...
Symphony
CONDUCTOR PLAYOFFS BEGIN IN SANTA ROSA
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, October 08, 2017
The Santa Rosa Symphony is calling 2017-18 “a choice season” because the next few months offer the audience and the symphony’s board of directors a chance to choose a new conductor from a pool of five candidates. Each candidate will lead a three-concert weekend set this fall and winter, with a final...
Recital
PIANISTIC COMMAND IN SCHROEDER RECITAL
by Lee Ormasa
Sunday, October 08, 2017
Nikolay Khozyainov’s Oct. 8 debut at the Green Music Center’s Schroeder Hall was one of those rare moments in a young artist’s career when a performance approaches perfection. From the opening notes of Beethoven’s A-Flat Major Sonata (Op. 110) through a delightful recital ending transcription, the ...
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.