The following review appeared in the Santa Monica "Outlook" on Wednesday, December 18, 1996.
Gavilan has the touch of a poet
By Peter Lefevre
Cuban violinist Ilmar Gavilan made an impressive showing with the Santa Monica Symphony Sunday, playing two violin showpieces on a program that also featured Stravinsky's "Firebird" Suite.
Gavilan has plenty of attributes to recommend him. He has a sense of moment, isn't afraid to extend a phrase here and there, in short, he's got a touch of the poet in him. As well, he can move like fire, with both emotion and articulation. He doesn't lose his focus.
This became evident soon into his performance of Saint-Saens' "Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso," which closed the first half. Gavilan attacked the rondo theme with resolution and a wry playfulness. As much as he sank into himself in the delivery of the piece, however, he maintained close contact with the orchestra and conductor Allen Robert Gross. There were few crossed wires, few disagreements of tempo or approach. Symphony and soloist worked together and created a memorable performance.
The charismatic Gavilan also opened the second half, playing Ravel's "Tzigane," one of the best-known and most frequently recorded violin show stoppers. Filled with intricate gypsy rhythms, curious ethereal harmonies and plenty of dash, it's a good vehicle for someone with technique and a sense of bravado. Gavilan and orchestra gave a moody and passionate reading.
The evening closed with Stravinsky's "Firebird" Suite. Stravinsky's ballet score for Diaghilev's Ballets Russes debuted in 1910. It was met with great success, which it enjoys to this day. It isn't yet Stravinsky as icon-smasher, but there are enough moments in the score, particularly in "The Infernal Dance of King Kastchei," that hint at the glorious terrors to come.
From the sinister cello passage that opens the work through the exultant ringing melody that concludes it, the performance was a testimony to the continued high standards of the orchestra and its leader.
Intricate and complex rhythms were negotiated as smoothly as quarter notes, solos sang out clearly and confidently. The explosion that begins "The Infernal Dance" was as startling as one might hope for.
The evening began with Tchaikovsky's Theme and Variations, from Suite No. 3. It was a charming run-through, plenty of color and texture,and nice, brisk tempos. The cascading strings and ,rumbling tympany at the close helped usher along 'What was a lusty, gutsy and invigorating performance.
Peter Lefevre is a free lance writer specializing in classical music.