Canton Symphony: Brahms & Rachmaninoff

by Tom Wachunas

April 25, 2019

Under the baton of Gerhardt Zimmermann, the final program of the Canton Symphony Orchestra’s MasterWorks season was yet more compelling proof of this ensemble’s consummate artistry. I have always enjoyed closely observing and listening to audience reactions, and on this occasion, awestruck wonder was the order of the evening throughout the performance of two masterpieces of the Romantic spirit: Brahms’ Violin Concerto and Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 2. In the process, we witnessed the most magnificent performance by a guest soloist in recent memory.

That honor goes to violinist Jennifer Frautschi. From the outset of the Brahms Concerto, she was a stunning presence, her playing a breathtaking conflation of grace and grit, and at times downright ferocious. The riveting breadth of her virtuosity — particularly powerful in her cadenza at the end of the first movement — along with her deep sensitivity to the music’s nuanced lyrical flourishes, worked flawlessly to conjure a wholly gripping emotional experience.

This was no small feat, considering Brahms’ ceaseless and daunting technical challenges to the soloist. Beyond the sheer agility and wide span required of the violinist’s fingers, there’s the necessity for consistently strong intonation so as not to be drowned out by the lush sonority of the orchestral arrangement, which was never intended to be merely a soft accompaniment to the soloist’s bravura colorings. In that regard, Frautschi and the ensemble achieved a mesmerizing equipoise. Each navigated the work’s ebb and flow of Brahms’ rich melodic developments in a mutually energizing manner.

NC Symphony Brings the Intricacies of the Four Seasons to Life

by Chelsea Huber

Classical Voice of North Carolina

June 6, 2019

The North Carolina Symphony kicked off a full weekend of nature-inspired, picturesque music with a special partnership with the NC Museum of Natural Sciences. Although the remaining two concerts this weekend will be presented in Koka Booth Amphitheatre, this partnership brought nature indoors to Meymandi– the headlining Vivaldi's Four Seasons was performed alongside video footage of the four seasons as they appear in North Carolina. Conductor Joshua Gersen, assistant conductor of the New York Philharmonic, led the orchestra with ease and appropriate subtlety, and violinist Jennifer Frautschi made a resplendent appearance for the Vivaldi.

Vivaldi's Four Seasons is widely hailed as one of the earliest programmatic works – in fact, his first publication of the concertos in 1725 included short sonnets written for each movement of the four concertos, most likely written by Vivaldi himself. Thus, the work has lasting influence, and is a standard powerhouse for violin soloists such as Frautschi, whose sinuous energy and fierce expression brought the music to life, most notably in the faster movements. The video projection was a gorgeous medley of images, bird's-eye drone footage, and macro shots of wildlife; all of these, of course, went along with both the season and the mood of each movement. At times, live camera angles uniquely overlaid close-ups of Frautschi's vibrant playing with nature images on the big screen, which is perhaps something the NCS could explore more often.

Overall, the experience was special, with Vivaldi's timeless work overlaid with some of North Carolina's most beloved spots – Jockey's Ridge in the Outer Banks, Fort Macon, Pilot Mountain, and more. Both Gersen and Frautschi will perform together at Koka Booth this weekend, with Thursday's program repeated on Saturday and a divergent yet connected experience, Piazzolla's The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires (with accompanying works) on Friday. 

Mahler spellbinds in James Conlon’s return to CSO

by Janelle Gelfand

WGUC 90.9

January 14, 2018

Besides being the first appearance by Conlon since his final concert as May Festival music director in May of 2016, the orchestra introduced a remarkable American violinist, Jennifer Frautschi, in Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 3. 

For the program’s centerpiece, Frautschi, winner of an Avery Fisher career grant, made an impressive Music Hall debut in Mozart’s Violin Concerto in G Major, K. 216. The Pasadena, CA native brought impeccable technique and engaging character to each phrase, and communicated with a big, relaxed sound on her Stradivarius of 1722, “ex-Cadiz.”

Her cadenzas were pure-toned and unhurried, and she tackled virtuosities with ease. What was most notable about her performance, though, was her obvious joy in this collaboration. It was fun to see her turn to Kathryn Woolley, acting associate concertmaster, and join in on the orchestral expositions. Let’s hope she returns again soon.


Bittersweet 40th Anniversary Concert by Santa Barbara Chamber Orchestra

Performance, one of utter perfection, was also the orchestra’s last

by Daniel Kepl

Noozhawk, Santa Barbara

October 13, 2017

A bright light in Santa Barbara’s artistic firmament went dark last Monday, Oct. 9, after a concert of superb orchestral beauty at the Lobero Theatre by the Santa Barbara Chamber Orchestra.  The program...might have been one of the best performances in this listener’s memory; Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 3 in G Major, K.216 (Strassburg), a youthful vision of power and resilience (Mozart was 19) [was] performed with staggering energy and finesse by Avery Fisher Career Grant recipient, violinist Jennifer Frautschi.

A full house of not just appreciative, but epoch-aware music lovers, knowing this might be their last opportunity in a long while to hear an orchestral performance at such a high standard, vouchsafed their bittersweet delight with standing ovation after standing ovation throughout the evening. 

Two-time Grammy nominee and Avery Fisher Career Grant recipient, American violinist Jennifer Frautschi, dazzled the sold-out Lobero audience as much for her gorgeous, gold shell-patterned evening gown, as her unforced but powerful music making.  Her performance of Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 3 in G Major, K. 216 (Strassburg) was by turns supplicating and robust, tender and tempestuous. The sound of Frautschi’s 1722 Stradivarius (Cádiz), formerly owned by Joseph Fuchs (1899-1997) and on loan to the artist, mesmerized.  Every detail of Frautschi’s straightforward but detailed interpretation filled the room with pure, clean, sometimes adventurous, always smart sound. Frautschi’s cadenzas throughout the work’s three movements were particularly colorful, even in the softest passages. In other words, this Stradivarius has legs and in Frautschi’s hands, it also has soul!


‘Distinction” Violinist Soars Solo, in Sextet

by Eric Harrison

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

October 4, 2017

Violinist Jennifer Frautschi, who aced Jean Sibelius' Violin Concerto in two concerts over the previous weekend with the full Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, noted it's a rare treat for her to get to stick around a town for a few extra days to play chamber music.  It was a rare treat, too, for the audience Tuesday night in the Great Hall of the Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock, where Frautschi, the orchestra's 2017-2018 Richard Sheppard Arnold Artist of Distinction, played some superb solo violin music and, with five orchestra members, an even more scintillating sextet.

To open the orchestra's 2017-2018 River Rhapsodies Chamber Music Series, Frautschi, with orchestra members Geoffrey Robson, violin; Ryan Mooney and Katherine Reynolds, viola; and David Gerstein and Ethan Young, cello, knocked the nearly full house flat in Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky's Souvenir de Florence.  Already brisk tempos sped up beyond all belief to end the first and fourth movements, causing listeners to break into spontaneous applause after the first and lifting them out of their seats at the finale.  Frautschi and her "band mates" showed fine communication, right down to the common body language, and with all that sawing of bows going on, it's a wonder the stage wasn't knee-deep in sawdust.  Chamber music played at this level must be as much fun to watch as it is to listen to, and Frautschi led the way there as well; a faint smile crossed her lips on occasion, and the other musicians mostly looked at least like they were having a good time.

Frautschi warmed up for the sextet with a wonderfully nuanced performance of the "Chaconne" from J.S. Bach's Partita No. 2 -- probably, next to Niccolo Paganini's 24th Caprice, the best known piece for solo violin in the catalog.


New leadership, but familiar flavors, for Cabrillo Festival

by Joshua Kosman

San Francisco Chronicle

August 6, 2017

There’s a new era under way at the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music in Santa Cruz... Cristian Macelaru, the Romanian-born maestro who took over the music directorship this season from Marin Alsop, seems determined to carry on in precisely the direction Alsop laid down over the course of her distinguished 25-year tenure.

During the opening weekend of the two-week festival...the tuneful bounty of James Stephenson’s Violin Concerto, subtitled “Tributes,” drew a lovely, gracefully pyrotechnic performance from soloist Jennifer Frautschi.

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Cristian Macelaru’s debut weekend at Cabrillo Fest featured plenty of fire and passion

by Barbara Rose Shuler

Santa Cruz Sentinel

August 9, 2017

Cristian Macelaru made an impressive entrance last weekend as the new maestro of the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music.

The West Coast premiere of James Stephenson’s riveting violin concerto “Tributes” gave guest soloist Jennifer Frautschi an electric score through which to showcase her elegant and effortless playing, even in the most breathtakingly fast and intense passages.

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New Jersey Symphony

by Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim

The New York Times

April 10, 2016

In Barber’s Violin Concerto, with the sweet-toned but fiery violinist Jennifer Frautschi as soloist, there were voluptuous tuttis in which the orchestra’s string section flexed its might, part of a big-hearted and shapely performance that paid homage to the power of meticulously phrased, cleanly sung melody.

Zander, Boston Philharmonic get romantic

by Jeffry Gantz

The Boston Globe

February 19, 2016

Romance, if not yet spring, was in the air Thursday at Sanders Theatre, as Benjamin Zander and the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra presented Schumann’s “Manfred” Overture, the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto, with soloist Jennifer Frautschi, and finally Elgar’s Symphony No. 1. 

Mendelssohn’s familiar Violin Concerto, from 1844, is prone to glossy, sweet-tempered performances. Frautschi, a Brookline resident, made the piece personal with an incisive tone and subtle phrasing. She was impassioned in the opening Allegro molto appassionato and tender in the Andante without turning it into an Adagio; her articulation of the scurrying Allegro molto vivace finale was exceptionally lucid. Zander accorded her the spotlight with a dry-eyed accompaniment.

Austin SYMPHONY orchestra with Jennifer Frautschi, violin

by Robert Faires

The Austin Chronicle, Austin, TX

January 15, 2016

...On the entrance of guest soloist Jennifer Frautschi, however, the scale of the music expanded considerably. In composing his Second Violin Concerto, Henryk Wieniawski, a skilled violinist himself, really loaded the piece with instrumental fireworks and romantic longing. And while Frautschi's dusky plum gown and relaxed stance initially suggested a rather demure demeanor, once she put bow to strings, she attacked the score with breathtaking speed and intensity. Flying through dizzying runs of notes, then drawing forth extended lines of deep wistfulness, then once more whipping up and down the scale in a frenzy – here frantic, there ecstatic – Frautschi conjured a character of immense complexity and contradictions, an Anna Karenina of the strings. Hearing the violinist work that 1722 Stradivarius was as entrancing as beholding Anna was to Vronsky.


By Stephen Brookes

The Washington Post

December 13, 2015

...the real high point of the evening came in the closing work, the Brahms Trio, Op. 40. The sense of wistful nostalgia — tangible throughout the evening — was almost overpowering, especially in the sweeping Adagio, and Ruske turned in a glowing account. But it was violinist Jennifer Frautschi (who is married to Ruske) who led the work — and maybe even stole the show with a commanding, incisive and absolutely riveting performance.

Symphony offers freshness with hallowed work

by Sally Vallongo

The Blade, Toledo, OH

October 24, 2015

Drama married to finesse defined the impact of last night's Toledo Symphony concert, the second in its current Classics series in the Toledo Museum of Art Peristyle. The program balanced freshness - two local premieres - with a hallowed work from the Western canon. Under first-time guest conductor Lio Kuokman, the orchestra blossomed into a vibrant ensemble capable of impressive dynamic and stylistic ranges. Joined by virtuosic guest violinist Jennifer Frautschi, the program sparkled from its animated beginning to its blazing finale.  

After intermission the stage belonged to Frautschi, who definitively soared in her performance of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto. One of the staples of violin literature, it's ranked as truly difficult and challenging by violinists, including Merwin Siu, principle second in the orchestra and new preconcert speaker. "Jennifer will make it look easy," Siu promised during his introduction, actually a conversation with Kuokman, which started at 7 p.m.

Indeed, Frautschi did make it look easy.  Not given to dramatic physical gestures, the slim, dark-haired soloist simply dug in and played the work in three movements, bringing pristine technique, astonishing precision and fluency, and great fluidity to her performance. With Kuokman keeping the big orchestra soft enough to enable every note to soar, Frautschi delivered a flawless performance that drew a much-deserved standing ovation and multiple Bravi from an audience that filled the Peristyle.  

Ojai Music Festival: Fresh but Familiar

by David Mermelstein

Wall Street Journal

June 16, 2014

The annual Ojai Music Festival thrives on a mixture of tradition and innovation. And that applies to both the music and the music makers. This year, the festival's 68th, the pianist Jeremy Denk served as music director, a responsibility that shifts annually.

...If one musical spirit hovered over this year's festival, it was Ives, whose works Mr. Denk has consistently championed. (He performed Ives's First Piano Sonata here in 2009 and has subsequently recorded and written about this composer's music.) On Saturday morning, he and Jennifer Frautschi performed with exquisite concentration all four of Ives's Violin Sonatas, over the cawing of a multitude of crows. In typical Ojai fashion, the experience was enhanced by the presence of the vocal ensemble Hudson Shad (constituted as a quartet at Ojai), who in between the pieces—and in the case of the First Sonata, between the movements—sang the hymns and songs that Ives so cleverly fractured and embedded in these scores.

Ives dominates night at Ojai Music Festival

by Rita Moran

Ventura County Star

June 15, 2014

It was Ives in the morning, Ives in the evening and Ives at supper time at the Ojai Music Festival on Saturday.

The quirky American composer fascinates the festival Music Director Jeremy Denk, a man who recognizes originality and savors emerging talent as much as he treasures Ives.

Ives’ four violin sonatas were featured at Saturday morning’s concert, from No. 4 to No. 1, in that order, with Denk at the piano and Jennifer Frautschi wielding her violin as if it were an extension of her own connection with Ives’s innovative spirit. Barefoot and almost dancing with the music, she joined Denk in celebrating Ives in performances whose vibrance could be experienced even by those watching and listening to the online streaming version.

Sonata No. 4 introduced the form, with its real-world title of “Children’s Day at the Camp Meeting” signaling the bumptious spirit of it all. The composer came by his singular focus on music under the watchful eye of his father, George, a small-town Connecticut bandmaster. The real sounds of crowds and bands and celebration were never far from the composer’s musical palette.

Hymns and anthems also inspired Ives, so naturally Denk interwove a number of those throughout the program, heartily sung by Hudson Shad, a quartet comprised of tenor Mark Bleeke, baritone Eric Edlund, bass-baritone Peter Becker and bass Wilbur Pauley. The quartet intoned “I Need Thee Every Hour,” linked to Sonata No. 3’s Adagio, and other relevant hymns and songs of the era.

Saving the best for last: SLO Symphony's final concert of the season

by James Cushing

San Luis Obispo New Times

May 7, 2014

Saturday night at the Cohan Center, Michael Nowak celebrated his 30th straight year as SLO Symphony conductor by doing what he does so well: presenting smart programs and working with star soloists.

The blend of Stravinsky’s cinematic, percussive Petrushka (1947), Beethoven’s Romantic landmark violin concerto, and the astonishing artistry of guest soloist Jennifer Frautschi created a most vivid evening of music, perhaps the strongest concert of the symphony’s 2013-14 season. 

...And speaking of “star,” where do we begin with Jennifer Frautschi? She glowed in sleeveless fuchsia, and her 1722 Stradivarius violin glowed a burnished amber in her hands. Her beautiful face yearning and imperious by turns, this Pasadena native commanded the stage with a treatment of Beethoven’s violin concerto that left this listener hoping that she makes San Luis Obispo a regular stop.

The opening “Allegro” movement, one of Beethoven’s greatest middle-period meditations on the individual’s role in society (among many other things), gives the orchestra plenty of time to establish a context for the violin. Once Frautschi entered, the bird took flight; the mind surrendered to the spirit.

Frautschi danced as she played the heroic solo parts and cadenzas as though the spirit of the composer were in a state of becoming, and she was wrestling it into presence. Cadenzas became essays in the violin as a medium for the giant sound-world Beethoven carried in his head.

I heard minimal ego in her playing. Her articulation of each note had an unforced naturalness that, at times, reminded me more of the French performance tradition than the German. The sweetness of her tone on the Stradivarius was as palpable as a strawberry at Farmers Market. At 25 minutes, the movement was unhurried and expressive.

The second and third movements, played without pause, moved from tenderness into joy. Frautschi’s playing, especially in the final “Rondo” section, suggested a forceful assertion of the Romantic self—impetuous, authentic, passionate in its convictions.

The concert, performed in memory of Frautschi’s violin mentor Stewart M. Rupp, was sponsored by Clifford W. Chapman and Gene A. Shidler, and Silas and Jimmie Brewer. Next year’s season, Nowak announced, will include, for the first time, a “subscribers’ choice” concert. Season subscribers and supporters will be asked to choose a program from a number of musical options.

I hope it’s not too early to vote? I’ll take anything that Jennifer Frautschi plays in.

Prokofiev’s mood swings make sense in electrifying SPCO performance

by Rob Hubbard

Pioneer Press, St. Paul, MN

February 15, 2014

Composer Sergei Prokofiev was a man full of contrasts and conflicts, a 20th-century wanderer both distinctly Russian and possessing a voice all his own. Capturing the tone of an artist trying to find his place in the world, one with a mind full of ideas and a temperament of sharply shifting moods: These are the challenges of a musician trying to channel Prokofiev's restless spirit.

But those demands were met marvelously Friday morning at St. Paul's Ordway Center by violinist Jennifer Frautschi. She and the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra -- under the intensely taut direction of English conductor Paul McCreesh -- gave an electrifying performance of Prokofiev's Second Violin Concerto, one that skillfully captured the contradictions roiling within the composer during the mid-1930s.

It was the centerpiece of a well-executed program that also featured a sweeping, propulsive version of Beethoven's Eighth Symphony. Yet it was the Prokofiev concerto that made the strongest impression. From the work's opening solo onward, it was clear that Frautschi has an exceptional feel for this composer. With authority, she guided the audience on a whirlwind tour to various emotional destinations, negotiating every hairpin turn with a firm hand and a depth of insight.

From haunting to anxious to a paradoxical blend of joy and sadness, every mood swing seemed to make perfect sense in Frautschi's hands. Even when, in the center movement, a meditative dream veered briefly into the discomfiting terrain of a nightmare, or the finale careened about between lyrical and gruff, piercing and frenetic, the violinist delivered the difficult work with technical mastery and profound soulfulness.

Toledo Symphony brings audience to its feet with parade of waltzes

by Sally Vallongo

The Blade, Toledo, OH

January 18, 2014

The Toledo Symphony’s main maestro, Stefan Sanderling, wanted to wish the city a happy New Year Friday night so he did it in the best way possible — with lilting, surging, bouncing music.

The program, Waltzing Through Vienna, had the very enthusiastic audience on its feet multiple times, cheering for guest soloist Jennifer Frautschi, the violinist, and then for Sanderling and the lively symphony players.

And how lovely to encounter Frautschi again, in a less formal presentation. Instead of the big concerto typically performed by a guest artist, there were two distinct opportunities to experience her artistry.

First was Pablo de Sarasate’s fiery and challenging “Zigeunerweisen (Gypsy Airs),” a tour de force of lightning runs, delicate overtones, and sobbing melodies into which Frautschi poured what seemed to be every ounce of energy. Listening was akin to watching a spider weave a complicated silvery web at warp speed.

Yet the guest clearly had enough sizzle left to dazzle in Saint-Saens’ “Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso” during the second part of the program.

Violinist’s star turn centers fine concert

by Eric E. Harrison

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

October 20, 2013

A decade ago, a young violinist named Jennifer Frautschi gave a highly acclaimed performance of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s “Turkish” Concerto with the Arkansas Symphony at Little Rock’s Robinson Center Music Hall.

Ticket prices have gone up a bit since then, but in her return engagement Saturday night with the same orchestra in the same venue, Frautschi still gave the audience much more than its money’s worth.

With guest conductor Robert Moody, music director of the Winston-Salem (N.C.) and Portland (Maine) symphony orchestras, on the podium, she gave a knockout performance in Samuel Barber’s Violin Concerto.

Frautschi never tried to overpower or outmuscle Barber’s music, so neo-Romantic in the first two movements, sometimes almost Stravinsky-esque in the pyrotechnical “Presto in Moto Perpetuo” third; with a combination of strength and grace, she and her 1722 “ex-Cadiz” Stradivarius glided sweetly and gorgeously through the piece’s themes and seams – bravura without bravado.

She stood closer to the podium than soloists usually do and just slightly upstage of the conductor, the better to facilitate communication. Moody’s dynamics were superb throughout and so was the balance; tempos were brisk until the third movement, which I have never, in my many exposures to this piece, heard taken quite as fast as this was.