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Symphony
THE SHOW MUST GO ON
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, January 9, 2022
The Jan. 9 Santa Rosa Symphony concert was supposed to feature the world premiere of Gabriella Smith’s first symphony, but it ended up featuring another type of premiere: a concert that was conceived, rehearsed and performed in less than eight hours. Symphony staff learned on Sunday morning that so
Choral and Vocal
AN OLD FRIEND RETURNS TO WEILL IN STERLING ABS MESSIAH PERFORMANCE
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Sunday, December 19, 2021
A tremendous accomplishment by the American Bach Soloists Dec. 19 was near perfect performance of Handel's Messiah in Weill Hall. Long an annual tradition at San Francisco's Grace Cathedral, the ABS took to the road and delivered a Christmas gift of epic proportions to an obviously thrilled and enth
Symphony
SHOSTAKOVICH FIFTH THUNDERS AT WEILL HALL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, December 5, 2021
In a new season marketed as “Classical Reunion,” the Santa Rosa Symphony made a palpable connection with its audience at the early December set of three standing ovation concerts in Weill Hall. The December 5 concert, with 1,000 attending, is reviewed here. Vaughan Williams’ popular Fantasia on a T
Chamber
THE LINCOLN RETURNS WITH CLARKE'S PUNGENT TRIO
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, November 18, 2021
There were many familiar faces Nov. 18 during Music at Oakmont’s initial concert of the season, but perhaps the most necessary were the three musicians of the Lincoln Piano Trio, the Chicago-based group that has performed often in Oakmont since 2006. A smaller than unusual audience in Berger Audito
Symphony
NOSTALGIC BARBER KNOXVILLE AT SO CO PHIL JACKSON THEATER CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 14, 2021
In their first Jackson Theater appearance of the new season the Sonoma County Philharmonic presented Nov. 14 a program devoid of novelty, but showcasing the “People’s Orchestra” in splendid performance condition after a long COVID-related layoff. Conductor Norman Gamboa drew a committed and boister
Chamber
THRILLING PIANO QUINTETS IN MILL VALLEY CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, November 14, 2021
The Mill Valley Chamber Music Society sprang back to life on November 14 when a stellar ensemble from the Manhattan Chamber Players, a New York-based collective, arrived to perform two piano quintets: Vaughn-Williams’ in C Minor (1903), little known and rarely performed; and Schubert’s in A Major D.
Chamber
MUSCULAR BRAHMS FROM IVES COLLECTIVE IN GLASER
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 14, 2021
Leaving SRJC’s Newman Auditorium for the first time in decades, the College’s Chamber Concert Series presented a season-opening concert Nov. 14 in Santa Rosa’s Glaser Center with the four-musician Bay-Area based Ives Collective. The season, the first given since 2020, is dedicated to Series Founder
Symphony
MONUMENTAL BRAHMS SYMPHONY HIGHLIGHTS MARIN SYMPHONY RETURN
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 7, 2021
In the waning COVID pandemic the Marin Symphony is one of the last Bay Area orchestras to return to the stage, and they did with considerable fanfare Nov. 7 before 1,200 in Civic Center Auditorium, with resident conductor Alasdair Neale leading a demanding concert of Brahms, Schumann and New York-ba
Symphony
APOLLO'S FIRE LIGHTS UP VIVALDI'S FOUR SEASONS IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, October 30, 2021
Long ago the Canadian violin virtuoso Gil Shaham played a program in Weill Hall of solo Bach, with a visual backdrop of slowly developing visuals, such as a pokey flower opening over four minutes. The Bach was sensational, and some in the audience liked the photos but many found them disconcerting,
Chamber
SPARKLING WIND, STRING, HARP MUSIC AT DEVON HOUSE GARDEN CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, October 9, 2021
Take a mild autumn evening, a garden gazebo with patterned rugs and lit with soft bulbs, shake in a fine chamber ensemble, add a rising new moon, and you have a recipe for the musical delight that violist Elizabeth Prior presented Oct. 9 in her Devon House Garden Concert series. The Marin Terra Li
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.