Violinist Jennifer Frautschi featured in SLO Symphony concert

Beethoven's Violin Concerto is centerpiece of show

Special to the TribuneMay 2, 2014 

Local music lovers are in for one of the year’s biggest treats Saturday night at the Cohan Center: the San Luis Obispo debut of the virtuoso violinist Jennifer Frautschi in a performance of one of the epic monuments of Romantic music, Beethoven’s Violin Concerto. 

Long considered one of the pinnacles of European music for violin and orchestra, the 1806 concerto is as long as Beethoven’s Fourth or Fifth symphonies, written around the same time, and offers many of the same pleasures. The violinist is asked to play at a level of sustained lyricism of which few human beings are capable. The big melodies wrap themselves around the listener’s consciousness in such a way that makes Napoleonic heroism seem entirely believable for the whole 40-plus minutes it lasts. Passionate soloing from the violin meets coolly reasoned motivic development in a perfect marriage.

The soloist’s instrument also commands attention. Jennifer Frautschi will be playing an authentic Stradivarius violin from 1722.

Interviewed by telephone at her Boston home, Frautschi — who was childhood pals with Anne Akiko Meyers, another violinist who has visited San Luis Obispo — spoke of the scope of the concerto she’ll play Saturday night. But when asked whether her interpretation may have been shaped by any particular recording (many critics pick the 1955 Heifetz/ Munch/Boston on RCA Victor), the conversation turned to the larger subject of music-on-record vs. music-in-concert. She clearly prefers the latter.

“You can make a recording that is technically perfect. You can edit, you can overdub, you can adjust every element to get a perfect performance. But then, the CD comes out, and you feel a psychological pressure to replicate the perfection of that recording, which can be distracting from the true essence of music: the live experience.”

Frautschi knows what she’s talking about regarding recordings. She’s been twice nominated for Grammy awards, most recently for a disc of Schoenberg’s chamber music, and her new CD of Schumann sonatas for violin and piano comes out May 1 on Albany Records.

“The difference is the presence of people in the room, which creates a human connection with a soloist. It’s like going from two dimensions into three. You’re having a communal experience when you play live. 

“At a concert, I can feel the visceral energy in a room. I compare it to exercise. You know, the runners have been training here in town this week,” she said, referring to this year’s Boston marathon. 

“I run, too, although I don’t run in this marathon — but the point is, running with someone is always better for me than running alone. Studying a subject in a class is better than just reading about it alone.”

Saturday’s concert will give Frautschi a chance to share her commitment to live performance with listeners in her home state.

“My father taught at Cal Tech and I grew up in Pasadena, went to high school there before heading East to Harvard and Julliard. I love playing music in California. I’ll be back in mid-June for the Ojai Festival, playing two concerts on the same day: Charles Ives sonatas in the morning, then solo Bach at night. 

“Does that sound odd? Well, concert presentation is evolving, in my view. This music does not have to be ‘elitist.’ Young people have such eclectic tastes now, what with Spotify and Pandora, and they’re open to classical music if the experience has some intimacy to it, some human intensity. I like the idea of short chamber concerts in small venues. I see nothing wrong with playing sonatas in a nightclub.”

Saturday’s concert also features Stravinsky’s 1947 ballet score, “Petrushka,” which will serve as a modernist side dish to the full meal Beethoven, the orchestra and Jennifer Frautschi will be serving. 

IF YOU GO

Classics 5 — Travel Back Through Time 
8 p.m. Saturday
Cohan Center, Cal Poly
$20 to $75
756-4849 or www.pacslo.org

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