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Saturday, December 20, 2014
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Published: Saturday, 3/20/2010

Violinist plays Brahms as part of a busy weekend for symphony

BY SALLY VALLONGO
SPECIAL TO THE BLADE
Jennifer Frautschi Jennifer Frautschi
LISA-MARIE MAZZUCCO Enlarge

There's no passion in the human soul, but finds its food in music. ("The Fatal Curiosity" by George Lillo, 1693-1739).

Toledo Symphony players, like thousands of their counterparts around the globe, generally don't lack either real food or the passion from which to generate beautiful music.

And, despite the ability of their playing to lift them out of time and place, they remain in touch with the needs of the real world, needs which have reached a critical level.

So on Friday and Saturday, besides playing three big concerts — two of which promise the local debut of internationally renowned violinist Jennifer Frautschi — musicians will provide music lovers an opportunity to join them as local benefactors.

"We are all aware of the effects of this economic crisis," said Renee Goubeaux, a cellist with the symphony. "But we cannot let that stop us from helping our neighbors in greater need."

Last year, the project was inspired by the film The Soloist, about a talented musician derailed by untreated mental illness. The Toledo Symphony Orchestra joined Orchestras Feeding America, launched by the League of American Orchestras. The TSO became one of nearly 250 orchestras nationally to jointly collect 200,000 pounds of food donations.

"Our orchestra's music uplifts people, but with this project we can do more to support the community that has supported us for so long," adds Goubeaux.

The violinist

Violinist Frautschi grew up comfortable in Pasadena, overlooking the gritty streets of Los Angeles, where the true story of The Soloist is set.

Little Jennifer, age 3, was inspired by her older sister, Laura, who already played the violin. She asked for and received lessons herself.

But, she has said, "I was no child prodigy."

In fact, although Frautschi, 37, showed great talent for music and the diligence needed to develop it, hers was no hothouse environment complete with stage parents pushing for attention. She studied with Robert Lipsett at one of the finest music academies in the Los Angeles area, but when it was time for college, she chose to study linguistics at Harvard.

Still, her first love, the violin, soon overshadowed academics and Frautschi (the name rhymes with "grouchy" she says) transferred to the New England Conservatory of Music and later the Juilliard School, where she was a student of Robert Mann.

Her big New York introduction came as part of the Carnegie Hall Distinctive Debuts series, a 2004 recital in Weill Hall. Selected as part of the European Concert Hall Organization's Rising Stars program, Frautschi performed in 10 celebrated halls abroad, including the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, the Vienna Konzerthaus, Wigmore Hall in London, and the Salzburg Mozarteum. Since then she has performed across most of the continents.

Frautschi also records widely, everything from "standard" concerti by Mozart, Berg, and Tchaikovsky to contemporary works by Steven Mackey, Poul Ruders, and Benjamin Britten, among others.

Here Frautschi will bring to life one of the most famous, recorded, and beloved concertos of all time: Johannes Brahms' dramatic Violin Concerto.

"I try to come at it with a fresh pair of ears," says Frautschi. "In a piece by a composer as great as Brahms, there are always new things to discover, given the depth and complexity of his writing."

Her performances will cap the Classics Series VII performances at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday night in the Peristyle. Led by maestro Stefan Sanderling, the orchestra also will play two famous tone poems by Richard Strauss: "Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks," and "Death and Transfiguration."

Frautschi will perform on her ex-Cadiz 1722 Stradivarius violin, a fine, historic instrument on long-term loan from a Midwestern private foundation. (The ex-Cadiz refers to the Spanish town where the violin lived for four score years.)

"I do almost always play on it," said Frautschi, adding: "I do own another instrument, but I loan it to a violinist who is in need of a good instrument."

Youth orchestra

Frautschi will not be part of the third concert of the weekend, but there will plenty of musicians on stage in the Peristyle at 4 p.m.

This is the annual Side-by-Side concert with the Toledo Youth Orchestra and the TSO. A third ensemble, the Toyohashi Youth Orchestra from Japan, also will be on the program. Soloists from the Toledo Youth Orchestra will be violinist Nick Biniker and pianists Michael Lenahan and Angela Li. Chelsea Tipton II and Kenneth Thompson will share conducting duties for a program mixing Shostakovich, Grieg, Holst, and Wagner.

This concert is free.

The symphony and Huntington Bank are sponsoring a Backstage Pass event for the Saturday concert only. Ticket holders may purchase a $10 pass that gives access to the nearby Green Room, where hors d'oeuvres will be served and where Frautschi and other performers will be waiting to greet them.

To contribute to the food drive, symphony patrons may leave canned goods, paper products, and other nonfood items with Girl Scouts who will be stationed in lobbies and corridors. Donated items will be taken to the Northwest Ohio Food Bank. A complete list of needed items can be found at toledofoodbank.org/Donate.htm.

Tickets for the Classics Series concerts are $20-$50 at 419-246-8000 or toledosymphony.com.

Contact Sally Vallongo at: svallongo@theblade.com.



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