Few musicians have achieved the balance and breadth in their careers that Gilles Apap has. He’s a world-renowned and sought-after classical soloist, an innovative crossover artist and group leader, and a hometown hero in Santa Barbara, where he came to live in 1986 at just 22 years old. This Saturday, March 19, at 8 p.m. and Sunday, March 20, at 2 p.m., Apap will rejoin the Santa Barbara Symphony for a program that will feature him on two major works—the Violin Concerto of Aram Khachaturian (1940) and the world premiere of Ojai composer Robin Frost’s Concertino for Solo Violin and Orchestra. For Apap, who was the concertmaster of the S.B. Symphony for more than a decade, the concerts will be a major homecoming and a debut of sorts in the renovated Granada.
Both Frost and Apap represent Santa Barbara’s potential to produce musical ambassadors, talents capable of spreading the city’s reputation as a music center throughout the world. Frost was a student of composer Darius Milhaud at the Music Academy of the West in the 1950s, and he has remained loyal to his roots. His Concertino that will be performed this weekend was written thanks to the encouragement of the symphony’s first concertmaster, Stefan Krayk, and completed with the support of Apap, who counts Frost among his closest and most long-standing musical associates.
For all his years as Santa Barbara’s most beloved fiddler, Apap is still best known internationally. His recent appearances include stints in Rome, Nice, Paris, Istanbul, and Zagreb, and after this he will return to Europe for more work in Bordeaux, Lisbon, and Wurzburg. His personal warmth, dynamic style, and ability to blend classical virtuosity with folk feeling make him an ideal choice of soloist, not only for the Frost Concertino but also for the Khachaturian, which is full of Armenian folk tunes.
When I spoke with him last week, Apap expressed his enthusiasm about returning to work with an orchestra that he characterized as “very endearing.” “I was the concert bastard with the Santa Barbara Symphony for quite a while” he laughed, “and it will be a great thing for me to come back and rejoin them. I only hope to see as many of my old friends there as possible.” For tickets and info, call 899-2222 or visit granadasb.org