Over the years I have read a number of Charles Donelan’s reviews of classical music in the Santa Barbara Independent, in many cases enjoying them and, more importantly, feeling brought into the spirit and musicianship of the concerts he covered. That needs to be respectfully said.
However, I cannot say that about his review of Gilles Apap’s appearance with the Santa Barbara Symphony in March, when Gilles played the Khachaturian violin concerto and Robin Frost’s “Concertina for Solo Violin and Orchestra.” We are originally from Santa Barbara and live part of the year there now, but were unfortunately unable to attend that concert. A friend sent us a copy of Donelan’s review, with us hoping it would give a sense of what happened.
We know Gilles and hold him in the highest esteem, not only for the genius of his musicianship but for what he gives and loyally shares with other musicians. He is a profoundly important performer who opens up and displays what music can be. Donelan’s review did not give any inkling of that, in essence did not respect Gilles by giving any kind of serious critique, even if negative or unflattering. The readers of his review got no sense of what really happened at that concert, what the spirit of the atmosphere was in the Granada or if, in Donelan’s estimation, people’s hearts were touched. Or if the orchestra was inspired and lifted (or not).
With a musician the caliber of Gilles these questions need to be asked. Also, we got no background on the somewhat obscure Khachaturian concerto, except that it was a “bravura” piece. Donelan’s review could have been an opportunity to open this work up to people, make a case for it (or not). Instead, what we essentially got was plumpery for the Santa Barbara Symphony; a fine organization and orchestra, but this aspect drowned out his review of the actual concert. The question begs to be asked: Did he actually attend this concert?