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Gerald Carpenter: Violinist Gilles Apap Returning to Santa Barbara

He'll perform as a soloist with the symphony in a Sunday performance

Globe-trotting superstar violinist Gilles Apap, concertmaster of the Santa Barbara Symphony for more than 10 years, returns to the scene of numerous triumphs this weekend when he will solo with the orchestra in two concerted works in their March concerts — 8 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday in The Granada.

Fiddler and local hero Gilles Apap returns to Santa Barbara as a soloist with the symphony.
Fiddler and local hero Gilles Apap returns to Santa Barbara as a soloist with the symphony.

Gilles will be the soloist in the first performance of the Concertino for Violin and Orchestra by Santa Barbara resident Robin Frost and in the Concerto in D-Minor for Violin and Orchestra (1940) by Aram Khachaturian. The concert will conclude with Maurice Ravel’s orchestration of Pictures at an Exhibition by Modest Mussorgsky.

Apap, who was born in Algeria and raised in Nice, was hailed by the late Yehudi Menuhin as “the first violinist of the 21st century.” His passionate eclecticism has often taken him outside the standard classical repertory for his material, especially into the folk music of Eastern Europe, which makes him an ideal violinist for the Khachaturian, as well as jazz and ragtime, which makes him ideal for Frost.

In 1926, Frost’s father co-founded, with the immortal Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge, the Ojai Valley Festival of Chamber Music. Frost grew up in a family of music lovers. He began piano lessons when he was 6 and started composing in his teens. His compositions run the gamut from classical through big-band jazz to ragtime.

“I am honored to have my concertino played by a violinist of the stature of Gilles Apap,” he said. “With the encouragement of the Santa Barbara Symphony’s first concertmaster, Stefan Krayk, and now the performance of another of the symphony’s concertmasters, Gilles Apap, this piece of music spans the generations of the Santa Barbara Symphony and will hopefully inspire many more to come.”

Khachaturian (1903-78) was born in Tiflis, which was then a city of the Russian Empire and is now in the independent Republic of Georgia, but was for most of his life a Soviet republic in the USSR. His ancestry was neither Russian nor Georgian but completely Armenian, and he is now acknowledged as the greatest of Armenian composers.

He wrote his only Violin Concerto for the peerless David Oistrakh, to whom it is dedicated and who played the premiere performance on Nov. 16, 1940. Oistrakh advised the composer on the solo part during the composition, and wrote his own first movement cadenza, very different from the original by Khachaturian (perhaps Gilles will do the same).

In 1968, with Khachaturian’s encouragement, Jean-Pierre Rampal made a transcription for flute and orchestra, which is steadily gaining in popularity. The work is full of exotic elements: Armenian scales, folk tunes and dance rhythms.

Tickets to these concerts are available from The Granada box office at 1214 State St. or by calling 805.899.2222. Click here to order online.

— Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributor. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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