Check out the versatile genius of Gilles Apap

December 8, 2006 at 06:07 AM · Phenomenal genius of the violin.

also check out his website

Replies (100)

December 8, 2006 at 06:36 AM · BTW:

The performance is from an AMAZING Mozart 3 - 3rd movement Cadenza

December 8, 2006 at 06:51 AM · Ha ha - thanks for the link, Gennady! I saw a TV-documentation about him once and bought 2 CD's, but this video reminds me to see him live. And - voilà: he has a performance here in January! Gotta order the tickets now. =)

December 8, 2006 at 07:27 AM · BIG Grin--how very cool. Sheesh.

December 8, 2006 at 12:40 PM · gennady, good one. what is his training background like? tia.

December 8, 2006 at 01:49 PM · Gena, what about the tastefulness required to know when that sort of improv is out of place? You wouldn't wear a cowboy hat to a white-tie function. And you'd look silly in tails at a rodeo. Which isn't to say that tails don't have their place where they look splendid, and that cowboy outfits are tops when it comes to dealing with ropin' n' stuff. But the smell of fertilizer at a ballroom is just as vile and ridiculous as cologne while roping steers. So why applaud the equivalent misplacement and misjudgment when Mozart is involved?

December 8, 2006 at 02:59 PM · This dreadful and repulsive performance brings musical insensitivity to a new level.

December 8, 2006 at 03:07 PM · Why is it that some people seem to think that the answer to how to get more people listening to classical music are gimmicks like this? Blues and Mozart are very nice apart but not together! I think Oliver Steiner's post above says it all!

December 8, 2006 at 04:44 PM · Guys to each his own.

Gilles was a child prodigy. He was trained in the most strict conservatoire style including Curtis Instritute. He was also married to Nina Bodnar. He has been hailed by Yehudi Menuhin and Ivry Gitlis as the violinist of the 21st century.

Now as for taste, if Gidon Kremer can play Max Reger Prelude as a Brahms cadenza, or a Schnittke cadenza in Beethoven, why not compose your own as this guy does.

If you guys care to check out his website, there are selections of standard repertoire which you could hear etc.

There is no doubt as for his ability on the instrument, and his ability to entertain.

I do believe that "even" classical music IS entertainment.

December 8, 2006 at 05:02 PM · I agree completely that classical music is entertainment. But Gena, some people are entertained going to a Shakespeare play, where the blood is fake and the philosophical, semantic, and poetic elements are real. Others prefer going to a boxing match, or even in days long ago, to a gladiatorial match. There, the blood was real and there was neither philosophy nor poetry involved in public murder. Both acts entertained. But in different ways.

Similarly, I think you'll agree that classical music entertains but needn't adopt all the mannerisms, criteria, or values of all other forms of entertainment. There is indeed no doubt as to his ability; I'm only doubting - or even denying - his judgment.

Similarly, just because he is the icon of intellectual violin playing does not make Kremer's judgment immune to criticism or doubt. Personally, I find the insertion of Reger or Schnittke just as offensive as I find bluegrass in Mozart. As my mother often says: "Ne iz toi opery." (lit. trans. for the non-Russian board members: That's from the wrong opera)

I hope you understand me correctly, Gena. It's not his talent, nor his violinistic accomplishments I doubt. It's jarring and aesthetically unpleasant juxtapositions against which I preach, be they in music, food, visual arts, clothing, you name it. I don't want chocolate on my roast beef. I don't want sunglasses painted on the "Mona Lisa". I don't want sweatpants mixed with Armani suits. And I don't want Bluegrass in my Mozart.

Now, on the other hand, an unusual and harmonious juxtaposition is lovely. For instance, Robin and I have a favorite restaurant in DC where the chef excells precisely at this. After all, who would think to a) stuff dates with mascarpone and b) roast them and c) drizzle them with truffle oil? But it works. Each flavor reinforces the other, and none elbow their co-flavors out of the way. I could reel off other culinary examples, but now I'm getting hungry...

December 8, 2006 at 04:57 PM · Here is what Yehudi Menuhin said about Gilles Apap:

"The different folklorique music, particularly that of people who, sadly, are on the path of extinction, it's up to us to assimilate it, it's up to us to be inspired by what it has to offer, by its characteristics, and to grant this music a new resurgence by way of the creative imagination of musicians who are able to play anything. For me, you are the example of a musician of the 21st century. You represent the direction in which music should evolve; on the one hand, the patrimonial respect of the precious classical works, presenting them in the correct style and with the intense communication that was appropriate to their time; on the other hand, the discovery of contemporary [popular] music and its creative element, not only in the improvisation, but also in the interpretation."

The bottom line is, one can choose to either go hear him or not. nevertheless, give credit where its due.

This guy is an awesome Versatile artist.

December 8, 2006 at 05:01 PM · Gena, we posted simultaneously. Scroll up to my reply above your Menuhin quote. I really would love to know what you think, ok?

December 8, 2006 at 05:28 PM · Emil,

There is an excellent documentary on Gilles done by the French, and there are some samples of him playing with Nina Bodnar the "Navarra" that would knock anyones socks off.

This guy is a "phenomen". Personally I am not offended to hear Reger in Brahms , Schnittke in beethoven or other.

It is refreshing in my view, and its like getting more pieces for the price of one ticket.

And btw, isn't improvisation what Mozart was all about anyway?

Wolfgang could take a Handel sonata or Bach, and make it quite his own or even improvise on the themes of etc.

I don't find his (Gilles) antics offensive. I would be even more impressed to see it in the context of the whole concerto.

BTW, his rendition of French Music (the sonatas of Ravel etc), are very beautiful. As well as his Ysaye.

I can have only admiration and respect for anyone who has embraced all disciplines, traditions and styles of the violin and made them completely their own. It is fascinating to see the same artist embrace so many genres in one piece.



check out Gille's bio:

Some very funny stuff.

December 8, 2006 at 06:28 PM · From an article:

"Food is an obvious example... Here in the Bay Area the idea of a "fusion" restaurant is becoming passe, because chefs are drawing from all manner of sources to develop culinary products. I had dinner at a neighborhood restaurant in Berkeley where the salad was vietnamese-inspired, the soup was thai-inspired, Stacy had a delightful Mexican-inspired dish, and we all enjoyed tapioca pudding for dessert. The restaurant didn't make a big thing out of the cultural progenitors -- the chefs simply decided to pick and choose and create a menu that made sense."

Here's the whole article:

Curious of your opinion on this, Emil. Thanks.

edit: guess it's just a blog, not an article....

December 8, 2006 at 07:46 PM · All I know is, I was entertained. And, his fellows seemed mostly so as well. I'm not sure at what point classical music stopped creating, but I do know signficant parts of it's roots is in genres not unlike Bluegrass.

And even where the origins of a class of music (Bartok again) wasn't a direct extension of folkish

music, there was often a strong connection to real life (the Pastoral, four seasons).

I tend to want to celebrate what he's done in the spirit of at least I understood the music, and it was not like some modern string of abstractions being produced today by some, that make no sense at all.

December 8, 2006 at 09:16 PM · I'd love to hear the rest of the piece...I couldn't help noticing that the actual "Mozart" sounded a bit commonplace after the cadenza (which is strikingly original, and for that alone I applaud). The orchestra didn't impress either, and it is obvious that many of the players in it are not on the same page as Gilles, which is a shame. But again, it's the concerto itself that I'd be interested to hear...


December 8, 2006 at 09:23 PM · Maybe it's the contrast, though, between a "normal" Mozart performance and a really out-there cadenza, that makes it so interesting.

December 8, 2006 at 09:20 PM · Or, How about this;

"Some modern day chef, presuming the highest form of pretension, creates desserts, mixing unmixable ingredients and charges unheard of amount of money in a city where five-minute drive will bring anyone in close contacts of desperate lives. Many people, lacking genuine gastronomical tastes, flock to the restaurant asking for more. The only saving moment came to me when, through the bustle of restaurant, I caught blue grass tune mixed in with Mozart, delightfully complementing each other, breath of fresh air. The only thing original in the entire evening. Unlike the disastrous meal, it cost me nothing."


December 8, 2006 at 09:37 PM · It's interesting, and I didn't think it was repulsive, but it did seem way too long considering the location of the cadenza at the end of the piece. The transition out of the cadenza wasn't very convincing to me and it made Mozart's ending seem like an afterthought.

December 8, 2006 at 10:19 PM · Laurie,

It's not "normal" I am worried about, it's "unremarkable".


December 8, 2006 at 10:41 PM · Have to agree with Emil on this one (which doesn't mean that I necessarily disagree with everyone else)! I don't think anyone can doubt the talent. Actually a line from "Amadeus" like that, right? "It's your judgement of literature that's in question..."

Why do that in Mozart? If the cadenza were excerpted it would be a brilliant effort. By harnessing it to a Mozart concerto it's deliberately provocative, almost argumentative. With that kind of mind, why not compose new works that really challenge in the best sense of the word?

As for the orchestra not being on the same page, were they given a chance? They played the straight man for his routine, whether they liked it or not. Is that inspiring? I would have been embarrassed up there, and if that makes me a crusty orchestra player then I accept. I've had rollicking fun with some soloists, and profound meditation with others, and everything in between. But this would have belonged on a different measuring stick.

I have no doubt I'll someday enjoy him playing something else.

December 8, 2006 at 10:38 PM · Don't be too quick to diss chocolate and roast beef, Emil. I had a killer steak once with chocolate and guacamole.

I love this cadenza. Did everyone notice how the various passages are all thematically related to the body of the concerto? Clever, entertaining stuff!

December 9, 2006 at 12:27 AM · I haven't seen this video in a long time but I think I remember being amused in a Victor Borge kind of way. The interest here revolves around why someone might do it in Mozart but not some composers.

December 9, 2006 at 12:36 AM · Speaking as a non-classical type fellow, I have to say that even I don't enjoy this performance, as music. However, I absolutely love it as a performance, per se. He makes several great statements all at once:

1: All genres influence all other genres.

2: the violin is unlimited in it's potential

3: Music should be fun, take off yer tux & have some prunes.

-And MAN does this guy have chops! And TONE! Good Golly Miss Molly!

Is he not famous in the classical world? Was he ostracised for making fun of the snoots? (I wouldn't know, it isn't my world)

December 9, 2006 at 12:42 AM · One more question, perhaps the most important one:

How do you pronounce this guy's name? (I had enough trouble with Menuhin & Ysaye!)

December 9, 2006 at 12:47 AM · Well, he's the frontman for the Transylvanian Mountain Boys.

December 9, 2006 at 12:55 AM · so would you honestly have found the Heifetz presence on stage, Milstein dedication, or Oistrakh gentlemanly style less attractive?

I know what my answer would be )).

Has being acceptable today got to be all about stupid and boring hi jinks on stage, or sexy videos, or in FACT absolute ZERO to do with music which R Fleming will tell you takes courage and discipline.

Was that supposed to be MUSIC what he played??

notes yes....

.music just sux!

December 9, 2006 at 01:40 AM · Emil, juxtaposition of different things can certainly be very meaningful. I take it you have not ever viewed some of the Eisenstein film projects?

As for this example, I think Gilles Appap is incredible and a true original, I just don't think the mozart thing is much to get excited about. I despise tradition for tradition's sake, and frankly if someone can make chocolate taste good with roast beef, I'll bite. On that note, there are 3 restaurants in Chicago right now doing a whole new thing with food, integrating space age technology. I wonder if you know what I'm talking about, Nate?

In any case, I'm open to anything of quality. However, this cadenza is unremarkable because it relies on being thrown in with Mozart G- for people to listen to it. Without that credibility, no one would listen to it by itself. The cadenza, for me, does not stand on its own. It is like a beautiful parasite. If someone wanted to do a great blues solo in the middle of a Mozart concerto that made sense and conveyed the sublimity of that work, I'd be all ears. This, unfortunately, is gimmickry and little more than a brilliantly executed side show.

However, somehow I suspect that M. Apapp is very happy about this, because he meant it to spark dialogue. Now we have a discourse on the quality and context of music. Mission accomplished, I'm sure.

December 9, 2006 at 02:09 AM · I personally think is interesting (I didn't say good) because of the different styles and blah blah blah but I agree with Pieter that is very "gimmicky." My main problem though is that it's in Mozart. I honestly like the things he did and it would fit if it was a separate composition, but it doesn't fit with Mozart. I'm not saying that people shouldn't be creative or try something new. One thing is writing a creative cadenza that challenges the tradition, but it is another to put some fake gyspy stuff, bluegrass, and whistling.

Another problem I have with it is that it being 8 minutes long makes it like its own little circus act. It's a Mozart concerto and he kind of took all the attention away from that and put it all on him and his composition.

I just don't think he should've done that in the context of Mozart. But if you really think about it, big deal, right?

December 9, 2006 at 02:30 AM · Allan,

the pronounciation of his name is like Zheel with a soft ending on the L (Gilles).


Do you know that Gilles went to your old school: Curtis Institute where I think he studied with Rosand.

I remember he stopped by in Nice (France) once in one of Rosands masterclasses to say hello to him.

BTW, there are other artists that play their own cadenzas in a unique way.

I remember playing with Jon Kimura Parker playing Mozart (@ Mostly Mozart Festival) and Pinky Z. was conducting and playing beethoven concerto on the same program.

To have some fun in the cadenza, Jon K.P. decided to include themes from Star Trek (since he is and has always been a big Trekkie Fan), and then included tidbits of the Beethoven Violin concerto. Pinky, was amused for sure as well as all of us in the orchestra, and the audience went wild.

December 9, 2006 at 05:44 AM · I did read he went to Curtis... not at the same time. I probably missed out on some entertaining student recitals!

You've got to have a sense of humor, of course. But at this point, this is all I've seen, so it's like the friend of a friend who bursts into the room drunk and tells a dirty joke that goes on forever. When he leaves, your friend says, "He's totally hilarious." :) I'll see him play again and things will be different.

And you know me, if something's good enough for Zukerman, I don't tend to argue with it.

I was actually talking to a colleague about this tonight, and we were both saying, "this guy should be composing for sure!"

December 9, 2006 at 10:53 AM · The Transylvanian Mountain Boys?

Jim, I thought you were kidding until I looked it up.

Too funny.

December 9, 2006 at 11:36 AM · He's a hoss. You need to hear Orange Blossom Slujnica, and Foggy Mountain Bucuros.

Why do we want to hear him compose? We hate his compositions. I mean unless Zukerman likes them. W.W.Z.D.? Zappa.

December 9, 2006 at 01:28 PM · There is no doubt that Gilles Apap is a great violinist.

Would I play his cadenzas during a Mozart concerto? NO

Would I play my own cadenza based on the Mozart? YES

I think Gilles cadenza was very cool I liked the indian taste, but it should be used for other things not during a Mozart concerto or a classical concerto.

just my 2 cents,


December 9, 2006 at 06:14 PM · For those who would like to hear more of Gilles playing;

there are more selections on including Enescu Sonata #3, Flight of the Bumblebee, Vivaldi Four etc.

this is a cool website

And one more thing for the skeptics, Gilles's motto is "All Music Is Created Equal"................

Perhaps that was the point of his Mozart cadenza at that particular concert.


His sound in the Enescu sonata is reminiscent of Enescu himself, with the multitude of expressive slides etc.

December 9, 2006 at 06:48 PM · I don't think that there is anyone here who is doubting his virtuosity as a violinist it is really a questtion of good taste.I am restoring a 14th century apartment in the heart of Florence (Italy).There are of course certain laws governing what I can and can't do both inside and outside and whilst of course there is electricity,water,central heating that has been added since its original conception I feel it my duty to allow the appartment to retain its original character and thus choose the furnishing and decoration ti fit the style of the house.I feel it is the same with Mozart ,dont paint the walls a garish pink and furnish with orange plastic seats.On the other hand placed in a different context this would be an enjoyable and humerous episode to listen too.I dont consider it as a cadenza as its lengh is out of proportion to the length of the movement and mathematically it doesn't feel right.

December 9, 2006 at 07:59 PM · For the moment he could be a tame version of Borat at the dinner table and the audience the guests. How do you react and what does tell you? Were you entertained or offended? Borat night was the best time those people ever had but they missed it all. I think they're even suing him:) P.S. It's always more meaningful to substitute the word "discretion" for "taste."

December 9, 2006 at 08:16 PM · Like I said:

For those who would like to hear more selections of Gilles playing;

check out including Enescu Sonata #3, Flight of the Bumblebee, Vivaldi Four etc.

this is a cool website

His sound in the Enescu sonata is reminiscent of Enescu himself, with the multitude of expressive slides etc.

And one more thing for the skeptics, Gilles's motto is "All Music Is Created Equal"................

Perhaps that was the point of his Mozart cadenza at that particular concert.

December 9, 2006 at 08:58 PM · I don't think he's doing it to show "all music's created equal." It's possible, but it's not really that significant a thing to say, I mean it's known, right? Even I know it. I think he's trying to entertain and say look at what I can do, like everybody else. Whatever else happens is an accidental byproduct, which often turns out to be great stuff.

BUT, if you want to interpret it seriously, why not think of the cadenza as the spirit of Mozart absent cultural boundries or something?

December 9, 2006 at 08:58 PM · Jim,

did you listen to the other selections on

December 9, 2006 at 09:07 PM · Not yet. Which would you recommend?

December 9, 2006 at 10:19 PM · Jim,what sort of fluffy word is discretion.Must be an Americanism.The word taste is global it covers all the senses ,discretion means not shouting your statement out loud.

December 10, 2006 at 12:01 AM · Janet, in America at least, "taste" implies a kind of personal subjective judgement without reasoning, and "discretion" implies a reasoned judgement. It's fine to say that's not my taste in music, but if you say that's in poor taste, that's the meaning I'm talking about. If I asked why it's in poor taste, the reasons given would be personal, and more a reflection of you than him. I have neither taste nor discretion. I'm uncouth and slow-witted both.

December 10, 2006 at 06:47 AM · Jim,

On that website, the player lists four selections:

Song of the Birds (from 4 Seasons in his own arrangement)

Agala Im Sousa (folk tune)

Flight of the Bumblebee

& Enescu Sonata No 3

Hear them all.

Really superb playing.

For the skeptics I highly recommend to hear his rendition of the Enescu Sonata.

this is a cool website

December 10, 2006 at 06:52 AM · It seems to me that traditions work by operating within a background of expectations - the most interesting works both fulfil key expectations and subvert others.

This cadenza does important things a cadenza should do according to the tradition (for example, referring to elements of the main piece in unexpected ways that cast new light on it) and simultaneously does things radically at variance with expectation (drawing on unexpected traditions, using heterodox techniques). It is therefore behaving "traditionally."

I think the questions I would ask is how is it engaging with the cadenza form and what is it trying to do with it that is interesting and new. I can imagine sketching out something about reasserting the improvisational tradition and about giving new contexts to themes and other elements that precede it. I am not so sure about other aspects however. Is it an organic extension of what goes before and after? The biggest difficulty is that rather than elaborate on the main piece, it might be thought destructive of it. Characteristic of Mozart is lucidity, precision and clarity. I expect those were evident in Mozart's own improvisations. What I hear here sounds rather rough ended and coarse. I am not sure the concatenation works to enhance both styles.

As to the issue of discomfort between orchestral players and soloist - I rather like that, it is surely central to the tradition (the show-off soloist), quite conventional.

December 10, 2006 at 07:45 AM ·

December 10, 2006 at 07:54 AM · This 'cadenza'is more like a set of variations. If it were to be presented as such I doubt that there would be this discussion.

December 10, 2006 at 08:43 AM · i disagree, because it's the very method of presenting this as a mozart cadenza that gives it the credibility... otherwise, lacking that context, people would just pass it off as some silliness.

December 10, 2006 at 06:42 PM · So have any of you listened to his other selections on

the player lists four selections:

Song of the Birds (from 4 Seasons in his own arrangement)

Agala Im Sousa (folk tune)

Flight of the Bumblebee

& Enescu Sonata No 3

Hear them all.

Really superb playing.

For the skeptics I highly recommend to hear his rendition of the Enescu Sonata.

this is a cool website

December 11, 2006 at 02:54 AM · Wow. I was hooked just from that first clip, but after hearing these other selections, I've become a rabid Gilles Apap fan. This guy is a MONSTER. (He probably has little horns under that cap.) Listen to the clip of Enescu Sonata #3. What bow control! What fearlessness!

Thanks, Gennady.

Imagine if Gilles Apap and Hillary Hahn ever spawned? (I use the term spawned because neither one of them is exactly human. He's an animal, and she's, well, an android or something) They'd have remarkable kids, but she'd probably die giving birth.

December 10, 2006 at 09:01 PM · "I'd rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints"

-Billy Joel.

December 11, 2006 at 02:18 AM · Allan,

He was married to Nina Bodnar (a great violinist, ex - concertmaster of St. Louis and Santa Barbara orchestras).

They have two kids who are in their late teens I believe.

Their son is a cellist.

Gilles was also concertmaster of Santa Barbara orchestra for about 10 years.

December 11, 2006 at 04:47 AM · Well, there goes THAT joke.

Anyway - at the risk of sounding like President of the Gilles Apap fan club:

I just listened to one of the most beautiful violin performances I've ever heard, and hands-down the most perfect (to me) violin TONE I've ever heard. It's "Desire" by Apap & the Transylvania Boys.

If you think this is some kind of Luciferific, pagan-bohemian testostero-fest, think again. It is soft, delicate, hauntingly beautiful, and classical to the bone.


It's on the eponymous album "Gilles Apap and the Transylvanian Mountain Cowboys ."

Just buy it.

December 11, 2006 at 04:58 AM · -And check out the cover of his newest cd (not to mention the clever Frank Zappa reference) :

You gotta' love it.


BTW, Gennady,

Do you by any chance know what instrument Gilles plays?

December 11, 2006 at 06:09 AM · Usually he performs on a Wimmer (German-trained maker living in Santa Barbara.)

December 11, 2006 at 05:15 PM · although in this video of Gilles in India playing Bach, it looks like he is playing an old fiddle.

this is a cool website

you can hear as well as view more selections at

December 11, 2006 at 05:33 PM · very interesting discussions. in this case, i have to say gennady's use of "versatile" is quite appropriate. this guy does have a good range.

which brings it to a point that is often discussed in classical music, that is, how original can you be...

original to yourself or the composer or the consensus?

how much is too much for good taste as cogently argued by emil? is turning the violin into a percussion instrument ok, once in a while?

what if we are dealing a guy that simply will be not happy if he does not do things his way when he is on the podium? isn't that the definition of being an artist instead of a bus driver? if heifeitz plays clear as crytal but fast like a maniac, is it ok because he is heifeitz so he should be judged differently?

do musicians really at the end of the day please themselves by being true to themselves, or do they have to live up to some standards and stay close to the median?

by the way, one website said that he started violin at 9 yo. now that is not my prodigy definition by age. for those of you who did not start at 3, good and bad news.

good news: never too late.

bad news: fewer excuses left:)

December 28, 2006 at 11:31 PM · small correction to my previous post:

Gilles & Nina did not have any kids.

Sorry, I took some rumors as fact.

December 29, 2006 at 12:27 AM · "Gilles & Nina did not have any kids."

Ah! That's why "no child is left behind.' :-)

December 29, 2006 at 02:07 AM · Cool-he was posted before--I think here....

January 3, 2007 at 10:22 PM · In case anyone is interested, Gilles Apap is on the cover of the new Strad magazine (Jan 07). The interview/article is on p. 28-34.

January 4, 2007 at 02:06 PM · ...Paganini himself and before him, the violinist Clement, during the first performance of the Beethoven Concerto did entertain the audiences with similar tricks...Paganini played often some variations ( the manuscript is lost)in which he imitated animals of the farm... you do not need to be a genius to do a show like this...It is amusing but after a while, boring...But I appreciated looking again at it ( I have seen it a while ago on TV)...


January 4, 2007 at 03:26 PM · This guy is on the cover of Strad this month, he's pretty cool! He plays all kinds of folk music along with classical, which I really like since I sort of do that anyway. :)

January 4, 2007 at 04:19 PM · ...and now I see that there's already a big discussion on him, I thought this was a new thread. Whoops.

Edit: OK, and now I have actually watched the video: here are my observations.

1. this guy is a fantastic player. Great technique, great sound, can make a fiddle do whatever he wants it to.

2. This cadenza he's playing is a tremendously enjoyable piece of music by itself.

3. But as a MOZART cadenza? Ugh! There's of course room for a little idiosyncrasies and goofing around in cadenzas, especially given the prankster that Mozart was, but this is taking it too far IMHO.

4. The guy can play a mean Romanian hora. :)

January 4, 2007 at 04:34 PM · listen to the rest of the is very unimaginative...Hundreds of violinist could play that way if they practiced that way...there is nothing phenomenal here...Go for Kogan playing Waxman or Nel cor più on you-tube: this is truly versatile genius, unique and cheap tricks!

January 4, 2007 at 08:40 PM · I'm with Marc and Maura. While he can obviously play, and play a variety of styles well, I think what he plays on the video is out of context.

Now if a bunch of scantily clad LA Lakers dancing girls had come in with a light show during the middle of the first cadenza, well then, we might have something to really comment on!!

January 4, 2007 at 11:14 PM · It sounds like some of you have not read the whole thread.

So have any of you listened to his other selections on

the player lists four selections:

Song of the Birds (from 4 Seasons in his own arrangement)

Agala Im Sousa (folk tune)

Flight of the Bumblebee

& Enescu Sonata No 3

Hear them all.

Really superb playing.

For the skeptics I highly recommend to hear his rendition of the Enescu Sonata.

this is a cool website

January 5, 2007 at 12:56 AM · I've seen/heard very few violinists (if any to Apap's extent) that have mastered so many musical genres (exs., classical, rock, jazz, blues, celtic, bluegrass, gypsy).

The clips of the Bach S&P's and Ysaye sonata grab your attention with a spacing and sensitivity that is instantly remarkable. I've heard dozens upon dozens of interpretations of the Bach and Ysaye so for me to want to order his cd leads me to understand this violinist/fiddler has a lot going for him.

When it comes to music my experience is: those who can, do! Whether one likes his interpretation or not merely adds to his appeal. The point is he has mastered techniques and styles of many genres and this alone is phenomenal.

January 5, 2007 at 02:43 PM · I agree that the man can play. I also agree that he can play a lot of things well. I believe my previous posting said both of those things.

The previous comments allude to how perhaps I'm really not in a position to criticize a guy who can play that well so strongly without backing it up. I think that's fair. So I will try to give a more reasoned and balanced viewpoint.

I'm just not crazy about the original video that was included on the posting - the clip with the Mozart. It certainly made me laugh. If it's a comedy routine, I love it. Otherwise, I think it's overdone.

As for the other clips on myspace, yes, they show that he can play a lot of genres well. I think the things that he does on myspace are artistically constructed and interesting.

I think his interpretation of the Mozart is sort of comical.

I appreciate that he is willing to step out of bounds to do things that are unique. I love the freedom in his playing - it's very inspiring.

A question I would pose to others.

If you think about his Mozart video - what would be the next step beyond what he is doing in the cadenza on the video?

I think the next step would be a bunch of LA Lakers dancing girls.

Other potential next steps:

A horde of Monty Python actors, say John Cleese, stating - and now for something completely different.

A clown in a go-cart.

A bellydancer.

The next question is - has he gone too far? Is it beyond the realm of good taste? Is it artistic or is it self-indulgent? Or is it just comical?

If you are teaching a student who wants to play like Mr. Apap, what do you tell them? Do you point them to his Mozart video? Personally, I point them to all of them, and mention that I think the Mozart video is a little comical.

I'd also like to think that Mr. Apap would appreciate that someone would express a strong opinion of his playing - good or bad.

I also think that the Mozart video is the best vehicle by which to draw out comments from others. It certainly is daring the listener to have an opinion.

January 5, 2007 at 03:22 PM · quote: " what would be the next step beyond what he is doing in the cadenza on the video? I think the next step would be a bunch of LA Lakers dancing girls."

And what exactly would be wrong with that? Personally, I like looking at beautiful women. Yup, works for me.

As I am wont to say, classical players tend to cling to tradition like it was the last lifeboat leaving the Titanic.

Gimmee a break. Take a deep breath, and consider that there are more people who dislike, or have simply never been exposed to, classical music (movie scores aside) than those who love it. Gilles may well be making inroads into the "never exposed" camp. This is not a good thing? Is it any different from some of the "oddball" pairings done by Yo Yo Ma or Perlman?


BTW, on the three Apap cd's I have so far, he does VERY little clowning around. There is some playfulness to be found here and there, but nothing like what you'd expect after seeing the above clip. It's pretty much straight-ahead playing, and masterfully done as you can imagine. Mainly classical melded with Gypsy flavors. Instead of an orchestra behind him, we get his small combo, lots of guitars, mandolins & such, but the strong classical influence and respect for that genre is always there.

Even if you've had a tuxedo tattoo'd onto your body, so you don't even have to take it off in the shower, you will probably enjoy his cd's.

January 5, 2007 at 03:24 PM · To each their own. Some people want to see the LA Laker dancing girls mixed with classical music, some want to see Cirque de Soleil. There's no harm in either of those things and neither are against the law.

I am interested in his CDs, if they are anything like his myspace videos.

If Mr. Apap's next concert includes the LA Lakers dancing girls, it would certainly have me intrigued. I might even have to go to see if he would do something interesting with it.

If it turned out like his Mozart video, I probably wouldn't like it.

January 5, 2007 at 03:13 PM · I think he choose the easy way to get famous, like so many others...I do not have anything against a good musical joke, but please , do not call the violinist a " genius", versatile or not...50 years ago, the public in general, not musicians, knew the name of Kreisler, Heifetz or Menuhin... Now, if you ask them to quote a great one, they will say probably: André Rieux...

A big show to entertain and make money fast: ART?

And what is left of Mozart? What will the public remember? The easy cheap tricks or the unheard sublime music?

Kreisler was so magic in a concert hall that he never had to be distasteful to attract thousands of listeners: he respected the composers, himself, and the public... In his days , the music he composed was "popular" music...Why using and destroying a Mozart concerto to promote vulgar virtuosity...Why using Mozart as a vehicule? Why not composing his own tunes instead of imitating others... I have heard many folklorik violinists and gypsy ones, much better than what I have heard on that video, because, more AUTHENTIC...


January 5, 2007 at 05:23 PM · Marc,

With all due respect, you are way off on this one.

In fact, Gilles had won the Menuhin competition in 1989, and instead of pursuing a "normal" concert career, he chose to expand his horizons. Visit his webpage and read about his journey. In fact he is such a strong personality, that he even put bad reviews from some critics on his site (to show that many are not as open minded about many genres as they should be, perhaps). He makes a point of stating that all music is created equal........that is his conviction.

Menuhin has written of Gilles:

"The different folklorique music, particularly that of people who, sadly, are on the path of extinction, it's up to us to assimilate it, it's up to us to be inspired by what it has to offer, by its characteristics, and to grant this music a new resurgence by way of the creative imagination of musicians who are able to play anything. For me, you are the example of a musician of the 21st century. You represent the direction in which music should evolve; on the one hand, the patrimonial respect of the precious classical works, presenting them in the correct style and with the intense communication that was appropriate to their time; on the other hand, the discovery of contemporary [popular] music and its creative element, not only in the improvisation, but also in the interpretation."

Gilles Apap is a very fascinating person.

I don't know the guy, but I admire his courage to have done what he has. He is very sincere in his interpretations. Just listen to his Enesco sonata, it is very much the incarnation of Enesco himself, the multitude of beautiful slides, the timing the voice of his violin are superb.

He has had a relationship with the polish orchestra in the Mozart video for a long time, and I think this video does not show the context of why and how he decided to display such a cadenza.

It surely does spur debate..........which always attracts publicity.

January 5, 2007 at 06:24 PM · we might like,dislike, agree or disagree his style but I want to point out that this most recalcitrant french violonist that refused to adhere to the system is certainly the most famous french violonist in the states.Rebellion and genius are kind of cousin arent they?

January 5, 2007 at 09:08 PM · Alain,

I certainly have no problem with the statement of Apap as the most famous of French violinists in the states.

I'm also not saying that he's not a genius.

However, a little more elaboration is required to get to "genius" from "famous."

i.e., Britney Spears is famous but one would have to work pretty hard to suggest that she is also a genius. ;)

January 5, 2007 at 07:23 PM · Alain wrote, "Rebellion and genius are kind of cousin arent they?"

Thankfully, yes. -or we'd all be playing lutes!

January 5, 2007 at 07:30 PM · ...and that would be truly "viol."

January 6, 2007 at 11:41 AM · Hi Terry

I totally agree with you. I just remark we rarely mention other french violonists that remain conventionnal.

Lute ok

Viol is more questionable since it means rape or violate in French


January 6, 2007 at 09:30 PM · Here's the Mauratized version.

What sect of monks has the best rhythm?

January 6, 2007 at 05:00 PM · uhh...that one could have stood a re-write or two...

January 6, 2007 at 09:32 PM · Rappist ???

If Gillies ever starts RAPPING in the middle of a performance, then indeed he will have gone too far. (even I have limits!)

As for the other, Gillies has certainly "had his way" with various genres, whether they liked it or not. The Beast!

January 6, 2007 at 09:32 PM · Laurie answered correctly.

January 6, 2007 at 09:35 PM · I would put it out there that the very nature of having been and remained a predominantly classically trained violinist is to be, at the same time, one who can only have a cursory understanding (and therefore appreciation) of genres that such training and experience have traditionally excluded.

Sure anyone can like or dislike anything from the perspective of 'perceived' tasted. But unless there is a good deal of understanding regarding that from which one has formed their perspective, it will remain in the realm of opinion and opinion alone.

Where Apap is amazing ('genius' and 'famous' are too one-sided) is in the fine details that many who are trained in one or another genre will miss in his playing of yet another.

This type of playing speaks to a transcendence in the way the violin is universally understood.

January 6, 2007 at 09:34 PM · Aw, Jim. You went and changed your earlier post, and ruined everything! (can't blame you though!)

January 8, 2007 at 02:35 PM · Dear Gennady,

I think the word genius should apply only to a very few elected...and Gilles is not one of them...Menuhin said the same about many other talented youg musicians, like Sarah Chang, for instance, and she is not in my modest point of view one of the few elected...Gifted , sure!...Now, about respect toward Mozart, don't tell me, please, that I am off the road... The reason why I evoke the name of Kreisler is because he was a true genius and his compositions are original...Gilles is imitating for instance folk violinists...he is not Jean Carignan, and not close even to the real sound of folk fiddlers...he is not authentic...he displays a kind of virtuosity, I agree ,that can please many and impress easily, but, he is not a genius...he is a dazzling player, like many others and choose to entertain audiences with an easy heteroclite music...

Best wishes ,


January 8, 2007 at 04:06 PM · Marc,

I think it's best to agree to disagree on this.

Listen to his Enesco sonata........ he plays it the way Enesco played it. It is one of the best renditions I've heard from anyone.

The point is, that this guy IS a true virtuoso who chose the long way around. And is now coming into his own.

He is fresh and imaginative.

If he chose to be strictly classical, would you give him more respect?!

I admire him for the risks he has taken, and his interest in so many genres.

As much as I love Kreisler, I never saw him as an all embracing musician. I don't think that one would take his Bach seriously, or Shostakovitch (which I don't think he ever played) etc.

He was a genius of his genre for sure. That is why we all love playing his pieces.

Do you not like Gidon Kremer or Yo Yo Ma? who have pretty much done the same but much later in their careers, and they don't have the ease to improvise the way Gilles is able to.

To me Gilles speaks from the heart (in everything he plays), with an absolute virtuoso flair and with complete abandon. If that is not a sign of a complete musician, I don't know what is.


BTW Marc,

As a child, Sarah Chang was an absolute genius. Playing the way she did from the age of 7...............

It is not easy for prodigies to mature into great artists, so much of life happens inbetween. But some manage to do it.

Josh Bell has certainly done it well.

Joseff Hassid was a tragedy and so was Michael Rabin.

January 8, 2007 at 05:02 PM · ...yes, the point is about Mozart...I will listen to the Enesco sonata, but prefer to buy the recording for sound quality...I heard the early recordings of Sarah Chang...I am impressed with musicality, not technical challenges...Menuhin, Hassid,pianists Martha Argerich and Nelson Freire were true prodigies because of both technical ablities and uncommon musicianship for their age...

Wish you the best,

Marc p.s. do not judge Kreisler with short pieces of the repertoire...he did perform all the great major works and his rendition of the Bach Chaconne was supreme according to Joseph Gingold...Milstein also mentionned how unbelievable he was in Paris, playing the Viotti, The Beethoven and the Brahms concerti all in the same concert...When he first perform the Elgar concerto, it caused quite a stir in the musical world, something that today is impossible to described with words and testified by all the great violinists of that era, including Eugene Ysaie...

January 8, 2007 at 05:35 PM · Yes and by todays standards, people are putting down Heifetz??!!and wasn't it Kreisler who said (upon hearing the young Heifetz) that the rest of us should take our fiddles and break them accross our knees!

Marc, I grew up on Kreisler, Oistrakh and Heifetz. I have all of the Kreisler recordings. His "classical" approach to Brahms, Beethoven etc. was very much like his own pieces.

Charming and wonderful, and very Viennese.

I love the great artists of the past as well, including Enesco, Kreisler, Heifetz, Menuhin, Oistrakh, Milstein, Stern, Kogan, Rabin, Hassid, Shumsky etc.

But today we have some outstanding talents as well.

For me to hear someone like Gidon, or Gilles is a treat for I respect the fact that they give their total commitment to any genre they are playing.

BTW, same goes for Josh Bell. Love his "Red Violin" playing as well as "West Side Story" suite.

Gidon K. has also done some outrageous things like include a Schnittke cadenza in a Beethoven concerto, or a Max Reger prelude as a cadenza for Brahms concerto. Would you consider him a heretic?!

January 8, 2007 at 06:47 PM · I am a great fan of Kremer and do not consider him as heretic...I would say that he is the greatest violinist of his generation because he did bring new perspectives in violin repertory, he is a great chamber musician ( his collaboration with Argerich and many others is now legendary) and a highly cultivated person, like Kreisler...Also, I would add that his Bach recording of the solos sonatas and partitas is a great achievement... But I am not ready yet to compare Gilles to Kremer...Considering Kremer's career as a whole ( he played the 3 Brahms sonata here recently= great, great playing and interpretation), now that he is reaching 60, Kremer is certainly in the pantheon of the truly great violinist...As for Heifetz, I always mentionned that he was a great violinist...but as a musician, he does not turn me on and I do not like to be out of breath when I listen to fast and metallic( sound production)...


January 8, 2007 at 07:22 PM · I happen to still love Heifetz.

Vive la Difference!!

Without him, it would most certainly have been a very different musical landscape.

So again, let's just agree to disagree.

BTW, early on in his career (in Soviet Union) most of Gidons teachers and those promoting young talents, did not feel that he would have a career. Being that his sound was his weakest asset according to Soviet standards, it is most likely why he went so deeply into new/contemporary music and have become its champion.

I happen to have always loved his sound, eventhough it was very different from all of the other great soviet violinists.

Read what Henry Roth had to say about him (in his book Violinists from past to the 21st century).

January 8, 2007 at 05:48 PM · Gennady,

I agree with you that Gilles is a terrific player. I really enjoyed what I saw/heard on that film clip (although I do think that as a Mozart cadenza it was out of context.) I haven't listened to his Enescu yet but I want to, and will soon.

However, I also very much agree with what Marc said earlier, that the word "genius" should not be used lightly. That is very true: for a genius to really be a genius there must be only a few of them in the world. When every excellent musician out there is called a "genius" it ends up inadvertantly devaluing the concept of genius. Just my two kopeks. :)

January 8, 2007 at 07:34 PM · I agree totally with you about Gidon...the typical sound of that era being Spivakov ( silvertone) or Phillip Hirshon...But many testified that Vladimir Lancman, a student of Yankelevitch, was the greatest talent in U.S.S.R in the 60s...

Marc p.s. would you like to take a look at my string quartets? Just finished them this past weekend after 3 years of reflexion... 3 Preludes and Fugues called "Bachianas"...I would be honoured to send you a copy of the manuscript and a CD...Just e-mail me if you agree...


January 8, 2007 at 07:59 PM · I emailed you with my info.

In Soviet Union, there was also Viktor Tretyakov who was outstanding.

He is still very much around, but does not concertize outside Russia.

And BTW, Hirshorn won 1st Prize in Montreal with Gidon getting second prize. Also at Queen Elizabeth competition, Philip got 1st in 1967 and Gidon came in 3rd.

Later Gidon did go on to win 1st at Tchaikovsky and Paganini competitions.

January 8, 2007 at 08:07 PM · Thanks for your e-mail...Tretyakov told me personnaly that Lancman was the best in Soviet Union...a long time ago...Lancman won the first prize in the 1966 Montreal competition and Joseph Szigeti was among the jury...Lancman was a supreme violinist and played Bach beautifully...I studied with him in 1976, but he was not practicing much at the time...I heard him in a recital in 1969, he was fantastic with a truly very, very distinctive sound...I think Spivakov was first in Montreal and Kremer ,second?


January 8, 2007 at 08:16 PM · yes, pardon the error. You are right about Montreal.

Spivakov beat Kremer that time.

January 9, 2007 at 02:08 AM · Gennady and Marc are performing a slow waltz together.

BTW, regarding Kremer, I read (I do a lot of reading, not being a pro) that Ysaye also was considered a very unpromising young chap by his professors at one point. He was kicked out of his conservatory. Went on to be top No.1 violinist in Europe.

January 9, 2007 at 06:21 AM · Regarding the appropriateness of his selection,I don't think he is degrading the mozart ,I believe he is degrading the bluegrass; he has consigned it to the role of the intruder , the out of place , the inappropriate,smutty phrase written across someones clean wall. He has chosen to give it that role, to play it in the context of mozart. Why can't bluegrass be it's own achievement , why can't it have a life of it's own?

The mozart isn't being assigned the role of the inappropriate, it has been elevated by being the intruded on, the bluegrass in this case has been given the role of the freak that can't find it's own place.

January 9, 2007 at 06:54 AM · I'd agree with that completely, except I can't take either that seriously, if you're serious. I'd smile at a quote from Beethoven in a Bluegrass solo too.

January 9, 2007 at 09:41 AM · Bartolomeo, you don't think Bluegrass already has a life of its own...?

January 9, 2007 at 12:29 PM · It depends on where life begins. Bluegrass doesn't pay anything. The CD royalties are set up differently from everything else and nobody makes any money playing either. I heard Ralph Stanley's banjo player talking about it just last Saturday night. Next to a rusty prefab Carnegie Hall in the middle of a trailer park.

January 9, 2007 at 03:01 PM · It was too much of the bluegrass, that was the problem. If he'd just thrown in a little fiddle riff or two into an otherwise "normal" Mozart cadenza I doubt any of us would have had a problem with it.

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