STRAVINSKY Duo Concertante, Divertimento. RAVEL Violin Sonata. Tzigane Jennifer Frautschi (violin); Marta Aznavoorian (piano) Artek AR-0006-2 (64:11)
Stravinsky’s and Ravel’s works for violin and piano hardly constitute a standard debut recital; but Jennifer Frautschi’s for Artek makes a strong impression whether because of or in spite of that repertoire. She digs into Stravinsky’s fierce rhythms without interrupting the smooth production of a tone combining warm lower registers with brilliant upper ones. The Duo’s angular passages bring opportunities for the violinist to humanize motoristic chugging; the Divertimento’s piquantly rhythmic ones display her tantalizing cheek in enlivening stylized dances—sometimes, as in the Coda, with a tongue in that cheek—while the Pas de deux opens stratospheric vistas in which she can soar. Both works—and the Violin Concerto too-display an instrumental idiom that the violinist’s own notes attribute to Samuel Dushkin’s influence on Stravinsky. But those two pieces could have been written with Frautschi in mind, so thoroughly has she made them her own.
The duo collaborates too closely for Ravel’s good in a sonata that, especially in its first movement, emphasizes rather than minimizing the two instruments’ inherent incompatibilities. Few have equaled Szigeti’s insight into this piece (once available on CD as SONY MPK 52569), although Dong Suk Kang (Naxos 8.550276, 15:5) came close; but Frautschi and Aznavoorian grow just as menacing as Szigeti (although none of the younger players’ menace derives from technical instability) as the second movement Blues unfolds—no small accomplishment. Frautschi tops the sonata off with a brittlely propulsive Perpetuum mobile, as exciting in every way as the Master’s. Her notes tract Tzigane to an evening Jelly d’Aranyi spent playing Gypsy tunes to Ravel. Many violinists perform the work as though Ravel had been listening to Jacques Thibaud. But Frautschi and Aznavoorian, neither of whom appears to be Hungarian, evoke the sensuousness and brilliance of a fireside improvisation. Her reading could teach many violinists how to make harmonics ring clearly and how to remain faithful to the spirit as well as to the letter of a quasi-improvisation. It’s hard to imagine taking a recording of Tziganeto the desert isle, but if I had to choose one this would be it.
It’s hard to find anything, except in the first movement of Ravel’s Sonata, even
to damn with faint praise in Artek’s recital; and that includes the engineering,
which provides a thrilling close-up of the violinist’s extraordinarily rich and
pure tone and crisp articulation, as well as the pianist’s sympathetic
Urgently recommended—even, in uncertain and bizarre circumstances, for the
- Robert Maxham
2. Boston Herald
"The purity of her playing was exquisite."
3. Chicago Tribune
"A dazzling performance. She used the whole vast multicolored palette of sound she has at her disposal."
4. Los Angeles Times
"Frautschi's playing remained crisp, aristocratic and audibly confident. She's a young soloist worth watching."
5. The Washington Post
6. Le Soir (Brussels)
"Jennifer Frautschi is an extraordinarily mature musician blessed by the gods. She gave a grandiose and assured performance of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto."