Wednesday, February 21 , 2018, 11:34 am | Fair 57º


Margo Kline: Gilles Apap and Santa Barbara Symphony Still in Perfect Harmony

Sunday's program featured a new piece by Santa Barbara's Robin Frost

Santa Barbara favorite Gilles Apap brought his fiddle to The Granada over the weekend for a concert with the Santa Barbara Symphony, playing music both old and new.

Apap, who served as first violinist with the symphony for 10 years, has traveled far and wide as a concert artist since leaving Santa Barbara. However, he was his usual relaxed but brilliant self at the Sunday matinee. In casual attire, he strolled onstage and captivated the less-than-full house (the rainstorm evidently kept a number of people away).

The program was led by Nir Kabaretti, music and artistic director, and included a new work by Santa Barbara composer Robin Frost, the Concerto for Solo Violin and Orchestra — a world premiere — along with Aram Khachaturian’s Violin Concerto in D Minor. Apap played crisply and authoritatively in the Frost piece, and eloquently in the Khachaturian.

The Frost work was certainly modern but not jolting, and Apap seemed to take real joy in playing it. It is in three movements — moderate, slow and fast. Frost’s father was a co-founder of the Ojai Music Festival, while the son devotes his time and energy to composition.

The Khachaturian piece is steeped in the Armenian ethos, well served by Apap’s love of folk and Eastern music. The audience was swept up in the music, and the two brief encores that followed. Apap relates so well to the audience that he usually leaves his listeners more than satisfied, which was the case here.

After intermission, the symphony played Modest Mussorgsky’s monumental Pictures at an Exhibition. The work, transcribed for orchestra by Maurice Ravel, limns the paintings of his friend Victor Hartmann, who died unexpectedly at age 39.

Mussorgsky was one of “The Five,” Russian composers who were classified together as early 20th-century Russia’s great exemplars. The others were Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, Alexander Borodin, Cesar Cui and Mily Balakirev.

Pictures, fittingly, is saturated with color and lively harmonies, from the first movements — three “Promenades” — to the final one, “The Great Gate at Kiev.” It depicts sketches, watercolors and architectural drawings of Hartmann, and the various movements are sometimes whimsical — such as the “Ballet of the Chicks in Their Shells” — culminating with the imposing “Great Gate at Kiev” at the conclusion.

According to the program notes, Hartmann visualized creation of a massive gate to the city of Kievin in the Ukraine, complete with the gateway itself in Old Russian style, topped with a cupola in the shape of a Slavic warrior’s helmet. The gateway was never built, but Mussorgsky brought it to life in this popular work.

The audience honored the orchestra with a standing ovation at the end.

— Margo Kline covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributor. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk or @NoozhawkNews.

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