Creative Conversations

Creative Conversations

SoNA conductor, violinist want to share their world


Paul Haas says he “wouldn’t dream of coming to a SoNA concert without attending the Creative Conversation beforehand.” Of course, he has to be there; he’s the music director and conductor for the Symphony of Northwest Arkansas, celebrating its 65th anniversary this season. But Haas wants everybody else to come, too.

“No matter how well you read the program notes, you’ll never get the inside scoop the way you do in our Creative Conversations,” he says. In the first one of the season Nov. 9, “Jennifer Frautschi will be onstage with me, and you’ll get a peek at what the Beethoven means to her, her history with it, as well as an idea of what it’s like to be her, playing concertos with orchestras around the world. I like to share personal stories of my relationships with this music, as well as funny, quirky, and perhaps even off-color stories about the composers whose music we’re playing. It’s always a great time.”

Haas has been following Frautschi’s career since they both were studying in New York in the 1990s.

“When we decided to program Beethoven’s Violin Concerto as part of our celebration of Beethoven’s 250th birthday, Jennifer seemed the natural fit,” Haas says. “She’s established a big name for herself on the important stages of the world, yet she’s young enough to bring a newness and a freshness to Beethoven that I’m sure are going to make her popular here in Northwest Arkansas.”

Frautschi, however, reveals that violin was not her first love, although she heard it even before she was born.

“I don’t actually have a first memory of hearing the violin because music was always an integral part of the daily fabric of our household,” she says. Not only was her sister studying it, but “my father also had an LP collection that included wonderful recordings of Michael Rabin, Jascha Heifetz and Isaac Stern, and I heard those as an infant as well.”

However, she says, in those formative years, she “preferred listening to the cello, piano, and even the French horn; some of the recordings I listened to over and over and over as a child were of Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony (which has a beautiful horn solo) and the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto.” And like most youngsters, she wanted to be, “at various points, a writer, a journalist, a classical music critic, a secretary and a hairdresser. It was only after I entered high school that I realized that I wanted to be a violinist.

“I didn’t have a ‘professional debut,’” she adds, “as I was performing somewhat regularly in small venues from the time I was around 12. When I was 16, I performed Wieniawski’s Second Violin Concerto with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, which was a big milestone for me at the time.”

Now, Frautschi says, she loves to play both the classics and new works.

“One of the most rewarding things about performing a new work is that I can communicate with the composer about her or his musical intentions and interpretive ideas. That back and forth can really inform how I perform a new work, whereas I can’t call up Beethoven or Brahms and ask questions!”

But, she adds, she loves everything about Beethoven’s Violin Concerto.

“I love the grand symphonic sweep of the first movement and the joyous playfulness of the last movement, but most of all I love the beautiful middle movement, which feels like a religious experience every time I perform it,” she says. “My role as a performer is to communicate to the listener how Beethoven encapsulates, within his Concerto, the range and drama of the human experience: from the serene, sweet, and solemn to the ecstatic and triumphant, all of which you will hear in the performance.”



SoNA Masterworks I:

Beethoven’s Violin Concerto

WHEN — 7:30 p.m. Nov. 9, with a 6:30 p.m. Creative Conversation

WHERE — Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville

COST — $33-$55; SoNA is offering a limited number of free tickets to patrons under 18 with the purchase of an adult ticket at all mainstage performances this season

INFO — 443-5600

BONUS — The concert also includes “Blow It Up, Start Again?” by American composer Jonathan Newman and Rachmaninov’s Symphonic Dances.

Categories: Music