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Jennifer Frautschi – Solo Vision
Fritz KREISLER (1875-1962)

Recitativo and Scherzo Caprice Op 6
Eugène YSAŸE (1858-1931)

Sonata for solo violin in E minor Op 27 No 4
Béla BARTÓK (1881-1945)

Sonata for solo violin BB 124 (1944)
Mario DAVIDOVSKY (b 1934)

Synchronisms No 9 for violin and electronic sounds
John HARBISON (b 1938)

Four Songs of Solitude (1985)
Jennifer Frautschi (violin)
Recorded at Loho Studios in New York City [? 2003]
ARTEK AR 0016-2 [65.58]


Solo violin recitals are not easy to programme. This one goes to the heart of the twentieth century repertoire with the Sonatas of Bartók and Ysaÿe’s E minor, adding a piece by the dedicatee of the latter, Kreisler’s Recitativo and Scherzo Caprice. Commitment to the contemporary literature is evinced by works from Davidovsky and Harbison, so this is a well-balanced programme, idiomatically played and rather closely recorded.

Frautschi, quite rightly, has her own ideas about these works. So the Kreisler is not as rhapsodically phrased as by, say, Oscar Shumsky nor is she as tonally luscious as he. She tends to be more vertical; to adhere, as it were, to the bar lines and not to phrase over and through them. She is straighter, less fanciful and romanticised. I enjoyed many aspects of her Ysaÿe; I liked her songful introspection and feminine lyricism in the Sarabande, though I did feel that her relatively sedate tempo for the opening Allemanda rather robbed it of its explicitly Bachian ethos. By contrast Ricci’s classic recording drives through it evoking the E major Partita. There is of course stiff competition in the Bartók, not least from the still vibrant Menuhin (commissioner of the work) and Gitlis recordings. In this respect – and in an analogous way to the Ysaÿe, I missed in her Ciaccona opening movement the sheer visceral sweep of Gitlis as well as the range of tone colours he elicits in the Melodia at a swifter and more agile tempo. But she certainly commands the broad sweep of the work well.

Davidovsky’s work is for violin and electronic sounds – the composer’s words. In effect these range from quasi-marimba sonorities to more abrasive ones. The violin line courses above them at a Passacaglia-like tempo with moments of declamatory violin writing taking their place in the dramatic articulation of the eight-minute work. Harbison’s Four Songs of Solitude were written in 1985 for the composer’s violinist wife. I was particularly drawn to the third, which seems to embody elements of old American song and hymnody in a most attractive and expressive way.

Frautschi proves a commendably communicative exponent of this repertoire. And whilst I can’t say that in any of the major works she is a front-runner she is clearly a talented musician from whom we shall doubtless hear much more in the years to come.

Jonathan Woolf



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