By David Steinberg
Violinist Jennifer Frautschi has an unabated love of New Mexico. Solidifying that love are the musical experiences Frautschi has had over many years.
Of note is her long history performing with the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival. “I’ve been coming for over 20 years to the festival but not every year. I first came as a student,” Frautschi said in a phone interview. “New Mexico is a special place. It has held a lot of memories for me for so long.”
Her other New Mexico performing experiences have been with the Taos Chamber Music Festival, with the New Mexico Philharmonic and its predecessor, the New Mexico Symphony Orchestra. Frautschi will be making more New Mexico memories this summer when she returns to play with the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival.
Her first festival appearance will be 6 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 15 in the world premiere of Max Grafe’s Quintet for Clarinet, Strings and Piano. It is a festival commission. On the same program is music of Ludwig van Beethoven, Gabriel Faure and Alexander Borodin. The concert is at the Lensic Performing Arts Center.
The next evening – at 6 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 16 at the Lensic she will be joined by Shai Wosner in W.A. Mozart’s Sonata in E minor for Violin and Piano. It’s an all-Mozart program. “I always love playing the Mozart sonatas, and in my opinion, they’re not played enough,” Frautschi said. “They’re a challenge. They look like you can get together with friends and read through them, but at the same time there’s an incredible sophistication and range of character. She likes playing with Wosner because, she said, “he’s intelligent and humorous and has an incredible voice and beauty and clarity in his playing. He’s an ideal partner to play that kind of repertoire.”
Frautschi will take part in the 6 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 19 festival performance of Franz Joseph Haydn’s Piano Trio in G major (“Gypsy”). It is at the Lensic.
She believes Haydn’s string quartets and piano trios are played even less than the Mozart sonatas. “Haydn was truly a master of the trio and string quartet. I love to read through some of the trios and quartets with friends. There’s such clever humor in his writing, extremely fun to play,” Frautschi said. Music of Beethoven and Antonin Dvořák are on the same program.
Then in the festival’s final concert at 6 p.m. Monday, Aug. 20 at the Lensic, Frautschi will play in two of the works on the program – Dvořák’s Terzetto in C major and Johannes Brahms’ Piano Trio in C minor.
Frautschi marvels at how Dvořák “can spin out tunes and in strange keys that produce different sonorities. The Terzetto is a virtuosic piece. It’s fun to show off all the instruments and Dvořák’s lush and careful melodies.”
She finds it interesting to play Brahms in the context of the concert. The third piece on the program is Beethoven’s String Quartet in B-flat major. “I think of Brahms as a classicist and into the Romantic era,” Frautschi said. “A classicist in the sense of his dedication to classical forms, but at the same time his music is lush, and it can be very emotive. That’s the biggest piece I’m playing in terms of size and scope of sonorities.”
One reason she enjoys coming back to the festival is that artistic director Marc Neikrug provides the musicians with a balance of interesting new music and older pieces that are gems. “I’m always challenged when I come,” Frautschi said.
On the subject of traditional and new music in the canon, she said they are equally important to keep the art form alive. “As an artist, the old and new constantly feed off of one another and influence my approach,” Frautschi said. “What I love most about learning and performing a brand-new piece of music is that I can see and hear it with a pure and fresh mind, and really make it my own, free of any preconceived notion of how it should sound based on a previous performance I may have heard.”
She finds it exciting to introduce audience members to a piece they’ve never heard before. And she is thrilled that in the process of learning a new work she’s able to talk to the composer about his or her intentions. “That dialogue is crucial,” she said.
Besides performing on international stages from Japan to Ukraine, Frautschi is an artist-in-residence at Stony Brook University where for the last four years she’s been teaching violin to mostly doctoral students. She is one of four violinist-professors who share their students. She enjoys working with students starting their career and in connecting with colleagues. Her half-time teaching position allows her to fit it in around her extensive performance schedule. “Many of the artists playing at Santa Fe juggle teaching with solo and chamber music careers,” said Frautschi, a southern California native who lives in Boston.
For tickets to festival concerts, visit SantaFeChamberMusic.com or call 505-982-1890 or toll-free 888-221-9836 ext. 102