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Jennifer Frautschi, violin
- February 22-23, 2013 8:00 PM
- where: Dell Hall directions
- conductor: Peter Bay
Avery Fisher career grant recipient violinist Jennifer Frautschi has gained acclaim as an adventurous performer with a wide-ranging repertoire. As the Chicago Tribune wrote, “the young violinist Jennifer Frautschi is molding a career with smart interpretations of both warhorses and rarities.” Equally at home in the classic repertoire as well as twentieth and twenty-first century works, in the past few seasons alone she has performed the Britten Concerto, Poul Ruders’ Concerto No. 1, Steven Mackey’s Violin Sonata, and Mendelssohn’s rarely played d minor Concerto, along with standards such as the Mozart, Tchaikovsky and Berg Concerti.
|Beethoven||Leonore Overture No. 1, Op. 138|
|Bartok||Violin Concerto No. 2|
|Schubert||Symphony No. 5 in B-flat, D. 485|
Ludwig van Beethoven
b. December 17, 1770 in Bonn, Germany; d. March 26, 1827 in Vienna, Austria.
Leonore Overture No. 1, Op. 138.
Beethoven wrote only one opera – Fidelio – and, while it may have its share of dramatic flaws relative to works by those who specialized in the genre, it is true music drama full of heroic themes and equally heroic music. But Beethoven struggled to produce what he felt was an appropriate overture for the work, and ultimately went through four versions. His first attempt, for the 1805 premiere, is believed to have been the overture now known as “Leonore No. 2.” Beethoven then focused this version for the performances of 1806, creating “Leonore No. 3.” The latter is considered by many listeners as the greatest of the four overtures, but as an intensely dramatic, full-scale symphonic movement it had the effect of overwhelming the (rather light) initial scenes of the opera. Beethoven accordingly experimented with cutting it back somewhat, for a planned 1808 performance in Prague; this is believed to be the version now called “Leonore No. 1.” But still not satisfied, Beethoven began anew for the 1814 revival with fresh musical material writing what we now know as the Fidelio overture. Each of the four overtures is, in its way, can be said to represent dramatic themes in the opera, and no one by itself captures the full essence of the work. (Interestingly, various conductors have utilized all four overtures in the course of a single performance of Fidelio. But since the Leonore No. 1 was withdrawn by the finicky Beethoven, it was not heard until 1828, the year after his death. That circumstance explains its high opus number and the fact that the Overture is generally heard as an independent concert work today, apart from productions of the opera.
Fidelio was one of Beethoven’s most challenging works to compose. Inspired by “The Reign of Terror,” Beethoven incorporated several elements of the events in France into his opera. The opera is set in Spain, where Florestan, an honest man, has been unjustly imprisoned by Pizzarro. Two years prior to the opening scene, the Florestan has exposed or attempted to expose certain crimes of the nobleman Pizarro. In revenge, Pizarro has secretly imprisoned Florestan in the prison over which Pizarro is governor. Florestan’s wife, Leonora, disguises herself as a young man, Fidelio, looking for employment. Fidelio is hired as a prison guard and begins to set about freeing his/her husband. Leonore No. 1 opens somberly, the strings rising slowly from their lower ranges, finally finding brighter territory, as woodwinds join in and the pacing becomes a bit livelier. Still, the mood remains unsettled, with a sense of probing, of uncertainty. Soon, however, the tempo turns animated and the music brightens, a sense of joy and hope emerging in the lively muscular theme.
Another slow section ensues, but here the music quickly casts off the sense doubt that reemerges and develops an epic character with a soaring, heroic theme. The triumphant, joyful closing episode builds upon this all-conquering feeling to banish all sense of doubt. Throughout the approximately ten-minute Overture, the music comes across as a deft admixture of the serious and light in its colorful but necessarily cursory summation of the opera’s story about the faithful and persistent Leonora to free her husband from the prison of the evil Pizarro.
b. March 25, 1881 in Nagyszentmiklós, Hungary; d. September 26, 1945 in New York.
Violin Concerto No. 2, BB 117. Premiered at the Concertgebouw, Amsterdam on March 23, 1939 with Zoltán Székely, violin and Willem Mengelberg conducting the Concertgebouw Orchestra.
Béla Bartók composed his Second Violin Concerto in 1937 with the intention of having Zoltán Székely premiere it in Europe. At that time, Székely was the leader of the Hungarian String Quartet and introduced the work in Amsterdam with the Concertgebouw Orchestra under the baton of Willem Mengleberg in 1939. As Bartók liked to innovate with his music, he proposed Székely to have the three movements of the concerto written in the form of theme and variations. However, the violinist preferred the traditional form and successfully convinced Bartók to compose it that way. In the end, Székely got his three movements and Bartók got his variations (the second movement being possibly the most formal set of variations Bartók wrote in his career, and the third movement being a variation on material from the first).
As it was typical from Bartók, the first movement contains Hungarian folk music and is written in an improvisatory character. Furthermore, as Bartók was a true admirer of Schoenberg, he shows the influence of the twelve-tone principle in this movement, without making it atonal. Moreover, Bartók wrote an extended cadenza at the end of the movement, which had the particularity of incorporating orchestral accompaniment. The second movement is clearly in variation form and portrays Bartók’s famous Night Music style. It contains six variations to a simple theme. Interestingly enough, the third movement is a variation on the first movement. The twelve-tone influence can specially be heard in this movement, which ends on a grand finale. Originally, the composer wanted to include an orchestral passage at the end of the concerto but Székely advised him to end the work “like a concerto, not a symphony.”
It is important to notice that the composer did not assign an opus number to this concerto. It was not until Bartók died that his two concertos were assigned numbers. Along with his legacy, Bartók provided many musical elements to be developed for future generations of musicians; he also contributed with his music by adding emotional expression into formal structure and constantly surprised his audience.
Franz Peter Schubert
b. January 31, 1797 in Vienna, Austria; d. November 19, 1828 in Vienna, Austria.
Symphony No. 5 in B-flat major, D. 485.
In his short lifespan of less than 32 years, Schubert was a prolific composer, writing some 600 Lieder, nine symphonies (including the famous “Unfinished Symphony”), liturgical music, operas, some incidental music and a large body of chamber and solo piano music. Appreciation of Schubert’s music during his lifetime was limited, but interest in his work increased significantly in the decades following his death. Franz Liszt, Robert Schumann, Johannes Brahms and Felix Mendelssohn, among others, discovered and championed his works in the 19th century. Today, Schubert is seen as one of the leading exponents of the early Romantic era in music and he remains one of the most frequently performed composers.
The Symphony No. 5 was written mainly in September 1816, by a 19-year-old Schubert. It is scored for one flute, two oboes, and two bassoons, along with two horns in Bb and Eb and strings. Of all of Schubert’s symphonies, it is scored for the smallest orchestra. It is the only one of his symphonies which does not include clarinets, trumpets or timpani as part of the instrumentation.
In character, the writing is often said to resemble Mozart; Schubert was infatuated with the composer at the time he composed it, writing in his diary on June 13 of that year, “O Mozart! Immortal Mozart! What countless impressions of a brighter, better life hast thou stamped upon our souls!” This is reflected particularly in the lighter instrumentation, as noted above. Indeed, the instrumentation matches that of the first version (without clarinets) of Mozart’s 40th symphony.
This is the first Schubert symphony which does not begin with a slow introduction. What starts the first movement is a four-bar structural upbeat similar to the one that begins the finale of his 4th symphony before the main theme starts on bar 5. The main theme is a simple rising arpeggio with a dotted rhythm that dominates all of the themes of the exposition. The first movement is a slightly unusual sonata form since the recapitulation begins, as in the first movement of Mozart’s sonata facile (and Schubert’s “Trout” Quintet), in the subdominant, not in the main key of the piece as is more usual.
The slow, second movement opens with a theme in two repeated stanzas, slightly reminiscent perhaps of the Ab refrain of the slow movement of Mozart’s 39th symphony. Without pause there is a modulation into Cb that is very characteristic of Schubert, even at age 19. The return to the main theme is straight, passing through G minor on the way; there is a repetition of the distant modulation afterwards, though to Gb this time and with a more immediate return.
The Menuetto, or third movement, has the chromaticism though not the polyphony of the menuetto of Mozart’s 40th symphony. The progression used mid-way through the movement to modulate is borrowed almost directly from the 40th – using the same approach (a gradual layering of instruments) to a dominant 7th chord. (It might be interesting to compare the Schubert to other minor-mode symphonic minuets of the time, however.) The trio is quiet throughout, and only gradually accumulates instruments, beginning with only bassoon and strings, and with a subtle suggestion of a pastoral mood over held lower string notes.
The finale is the shortest of the movements. It is a perfectly regular sonata allegro design, masterly in conception and formulation, whose vivacity is held in effective restraint by episodes of considerable dramatic power and eloquence. Several commentators have described the spirited finale as closer to Haydn than to Mozart, its witty opening material, which dominates the movement, occasionally interrupted by forceful statements from the full orchestra.
During his last years, Schubert continued to evolve as a symphony composer. He began the Unfinished Symphony in 1822, which showed his maturity as a composer, but was unable to find a satisfactory way to conclude a work of such large dimensions. His Ninth Symphony, written in 1828, continues this development with many Beethovenian elements, but was declared “unplayable” by a Viennese orchestra. Schubert also started a sketch in three movements for a Symphony in D before his death.
Avery Fisher career grant recipient violinist Jennifer Frautschi has gained acclaim as an adventurous performer with a wide-ranging repertoire. As the Chicago Tribune wrote, “the young violinist Jennifer Frautschi is molding a career with smart interpretations of both warhorses and rarities.” Equally at home in the classic repertoire as well as twentieth and twenty-first century works, in the past few seasons alone she has performed the Britten Concerto, Poul Ruders’ Concerto No. 1, Steven Mackey’s Violin Sonata, and Mendelssohn’s rarely played D Minor Concerto, along with standards such as the Mozart, Tchaikovsky and Berg Concerti.
Ms. Frautschi has created a sensation with appearances as soloist with Pierre Boulez and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Christoph Eschenbach and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at the Ravinia Festival, and at Wigmore Hall and Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart Festival. She has also soloed in recent seasons with the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia, Kansas City Symphony, Louisville Orchestra, Orchestra of St. Luke’s, San Diego Symphony, and Seattle Symphony, and toured the United States with the Czech Symphony Orchestra.
Selected by Carnegie Hall for its Distinctive Debuts series, she made her New York recital debut in 2004. As part of the European Concert Hall Organization’s Rising Stars series, Ms. Frautschi also made debuts that year at ten of Europe’s most celebrated concert venues, including London’s Wigmore Hall, Salzburg Mozarteum, Amsterdam Concertgebouw, Vienna Konzerthaus, and La Cité de la Musique in Paris. She has also been heard in recital at the Ravinia Festival, La Jolla Chamber Music Society, Washington’s Phillips Collection, Boston’s Gardner Museum, Beijing’s Imperial Garden, Monnaie Opera in Brussels, La Chaux des Fonds in Switzerland, and San Miguel de Allende Festival in Mexico.
Highlights of Ms. Frautschi’s recent seasons include the world premiere of James Stephenson’s Violin Concerto, a piece written for her, with the Minnesota Orchestra and Osmo Vänskä; Barber Concerto with the orchestra of the Teatro di San Carlo Opera House in Naples, James Conlon conducting; and performances with the Eugene, Jacksonville, Milwaukee, Phoenix, and Utah Symphonies, and the Buffalo and Rhode Island Philharmonics. She has recently appeared with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Boston Chamber Music Society, and Philadelphia Chamber Music Society; toured England with musicians from Prussia Cove, culminating with a concert in London’s Wigmore Hall; and premiered a new horn trio by Mason Bates at the inaugural season of the Ringling International Arts Festival in Sarasota.
As a chamber artist, Ms. Frautschi performs often at the Boston Chamber Music Society, Caramoor (where she has appeared annually since she was first invited there at the age of 18 by Andre Previn), Chamber Music Northwest (in Portland, OR), and the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival. Formerly a member of Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center Two, she is a frequent guest at the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. She has also appeared at the Charlottesville, La Jolla Summerfest, La Musica (Sarasota), Moab, Music@Menlo, Newport, and Seattle Chamber Music Festivals, as well as at New York’s Metropolitan and Guggenheim Museums of Art, the 92nd Street Y, and Mainly Mozart in San Diego. Internationally, she has performed at the Cartagena International Music Festival in Columbia, the Spoleto Festival of the Two Worlds and Rome Chamber Music Festival in Italy, Pharo’s Trust in Cyprus, Kutna Hora Festival in the Czech Republic, St. Barth’s Music Festival in the French West Indies, and Prussia Cove in England. She has premiered important new works by Mason Bates, Oliver Knussen, Krzystof Penderecki, Michael Hersch, and others, and has appeared at New York’s George Crumb Festival and Stefan Wolpe Centenary Concerts.
Born in Pasadena, California, Ms. Frautschi began the violin at age three. She was a student of Robert Lipsett at the Colburn School for the Performing Arts in Los Angeles. She also attended Harvard, the New England Conservatory of Music, and The Juilliard School, where she studied with Robert Mann. She performs on a 1722 Antonio Stradivarius violin known as the “ex-Cadiz,” on generous loan to her from a private American foundation.