Jean Ferrandis Slums in Santa Rosa

Jean FerrandisI am very poor. It has been many years since I have been to any live concert, much less a symphony. But I received a card in the mail alerting me to an upcoming performance by the Santa Rosa Symphony. The conductor, Bruno Ferrandis, had brought his brother, flutist Jean Ferrandis, in for the season finale. Being an old flute player myself, I decided to get tickets for the “Discovery Open Rehearsal” because it was cheap.

The rehearsal was not what I had expected. I thought this would be like the dress rehearsal for a play. At one of these, unless the lead actor’s hair catches on fire, the performance continues. The first thing I noticed here was that this was not a dress rehearsal; the musicians were mostly dressed in shorts and tank tops—it was 92 today in Santa Rosa. Then Bruno comes out and tells the orchestra, “Start at measure 22.” Of course, he says it in an outrageous French accent, so it was still pretty cool.

After about 20 minutes of rehearsal, they perform the whole piece: Debussy’s Jeux. It was unremarkable.

Then, Jean Ferrandis comes on stage with his flute. They are going to do the Mozart: the Flute Concerto in D—the lesser of the two flute concertos Mozart deemed to “write” (he did not like the flute, and I can’t really blame him). The first two movements go well enough. Jean is my kind of flutist: clear and accurate with little showiness. Half way through the third—and best—movement, the orchestra stops. I’m not sure why. It seems that Jean wanted to do a little rubato and Bruno forgot. I feel for both brothers. On the one hand, rubato used in that particular phrase worked really well. On the other hand, this is really pushing Mozart—it wasn’t meant to be!

At this point, there was a break. I was really thinking that I had wasted my money. Then the group came back together to perform Ibert’s Flute Concerto. Wow. One of my most favorite pieces in the world is Francis Poulenc’s Sonata for Flute and Piano. Ibert’s piece is perhaps as good. And Jean’s performance of it was exquisite, even though he didn’t have it memorized. (He seemed to have much of it memorized, but he was still dependent upon sheet music.)

Jean Ferrandis left and the orchestra performed a very capable version of Ravel’s La Valse. It seemed a strange program: 3 early 20th century French works and one of Mozart’s most banal adult works. Truly, it didn’t work, but I suspect that the Mozart was thrown in as a bone to make up for all the airy and dissonant music. It can’t have been that after all these years Jean still likes to perform it; I was bored with it at 17; then again, that may be what distinguishes a great artist from me.[1]

In the end, I wish I had ponied up the extra cash and saw a real performance. But certainly the Ibert was worth the entire cost.

And now for something completely different, a Cuban version of Für Elise:

[1] The D Major Flute Concerto seems to be a signature piece for Jean Ferrandis. On his CV it says, “Leonard Bernstein was so impressed by his performance of the adagio from Mozart’s D major concerto that he remarked ‘It is Pan himself!’ and subsequently composed a cadenza for Mr. Ferrandis.” On the front page of his website, there is an audio clip of the rehearsal of the concerto where Bernstein says this: “C’est pan lui-même!” Also, I don’t mean to put down Mozart. He remains the composer I listen to the most. I just don’t think he was at his best when composing these pieces, fun though they are.