Rogue Valley Symphony's artistic director and conductor Martin Majkut. - Photo by Christopher Briscoe

Rogue Valley Symphony showcases violinist Jennifer Frautschi

Rogue Valley Symphony, under the baton of Martin Majkut, will perform Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto with violinist Jennifer Frautschi during its Masterworks 1 concert, marking the beginning of the symphony's 2016-17 season.

As the Chicago Tribune noted, "Jennifer Frautschi is molding a career with smart interpretations of both warhorses and rarities.”

"Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto is a warhorse," Frautschi says during a telephone interview from her house in Boston. "It's popular with audiences and violinists alike. It's something I've played quite a bit over the years. Tchaikovsky is beloved by audiences and orchestras because of his lush romantic writing. His 'Romeo and Juliet' is a prime example. 

"There's a lot of that romantic writing in the concerto," she says. "There's quite a bit of athletic writing, as well. There are lush, romantic melodies offset by vigorous, energetic writing. It poses challenges for the violinist."

Concerts are set for 7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 21, in the Music Recital Hall on the Southern Oregon University campus, 405 S. Mountain Ave.; 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 22, in the Craterian Theater, 23 S. Central Ave., Medford; and 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 23, in the Grants Pass Performing Arts Center, 830 N.E. Ninth St. Conductor Majkut will host talks one hour before each performance. 

Tickets are $36, $42, $48 or $55 for the Ashland show; $15, $25, $31, $36, $42 or $48 for the Medford show; and $15, $22, $30 or $37 for the Grants Pass show. Tickets are $10 for ages 18 and younger at all shows. SNAP cardholders get in for $5 at the Grants Pass show. All tickets can be purchased online at rvsymphony.org or by calling 541-708-6400. Tickets for the Medford show also can be purchased at craterian.org or by calling 541-799-3000.

Frautschi points to ice skaters competing in the Winter Olympics while discussing the stamina to perform Tchaikovsky's famous piece.

"Three minutes into their program and they have to do a triple- or double-axel. They build that endurance during training. We musicians do that, as well. We practice so that we can have endurance on stage."

The concerts will open with Finnish composer Einojuhani Rautavaara’s "Anadyomene: Adoration of Aphrodite." Rautavaara may be a new composer to many music lovers. Born in Helsinki, he is one of the most notable Finnish composers, after Jean Sibelius. He went from writing experimental music to a beautiful style that marries the modern sounds with traditional elements of 19th-century music. Majkut was struck by the composer's unusual and beautiful resonances and sonorities.

“This whole concert is about northeast Europe, and I thought 'Anadyomene' would be a fitting start to the concert,” says Majkut, back from an extended trip to his home in Slovakia.

The Rautavaara will be followed by the violin concerto — scored for solo violin, two flutes, two oboes, two clarinets in A and B-flat, two bassoons, four horns in F, two trumpets in D, timpani and strings — then Dmitri Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 9.

Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 9. is the most Haydn-esque of his symphonies, Majkut says. Shostakovich was writing under the ghost of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. It is very satiric and compact. There is no grandeur nor any majestic gestures.

“It is Shostakovich at his happiest and most witty," Majkut says. "He is turning away from the dark places. There are also some very virtuosic solos throughout the symphony, which feature trumpet and piccolo.

RVS Music Director Majkut pairs “something that stretches listeners with something very traditional" within the scope of his seasonal concerts.

"I look for challenges for myself and the musician,” Majkut says. "I think the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto is one of the greatest pieces for violin and orchestra. It’s just so virtuosic and flows freely and naturally. It makes the violin truly shine.”

Majkut chose Frautschi because she is a musician he has respected for quite some time. Also, he wants to provide soloists of very high caliber to the Rogue Valley audiences.

"The middle movement, called the canzonetta, which is only several minutes long, is straightforward and achingly beautiful," Frautschi says. "It's a moment of repose in this vigorous concerto. I always look forward to getting to that point, where I have several minutes of playing beautiful, simple melodies that Tchaikovsky wrote."

Frautschi grew up in Pasadena, California. She's played violin since the age of 3½. When she was 18, she moved to Boston to study at Harvard and New England Conservatory, then the Juilliard School in New York City. She eventually moved back down to Boston. This year, she's played with symphonies and at music festivals around the country.

"Boston is a wonderful place to be based," Frautschi says. "Even though the Red Sox lost last night. My husband was very sad."

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