Frederic Fradkin (1892-1963)
- Profession: Violinist.
- Relation to Mahler: Worked with Gustav Mahler.
- Correspondence with Mahler:
- Born: 24-04-1892 Troy, New York, America.
- Died: 00-00-1963 New York, America. Aged 71.
- Buried: 00-00-0000
Fredric 'Freddy' Fradkin had Russian parents. He radkin studied violin with Sam Franko (1857-1937), who was also briefly a BSO violin (2 weeks !), Leopold Lichtenberg (1861-1935), and Max Bendix (1866–1945). Beginning in 1908, at age sixteen, Fradkin was admitted to the Paris Conservatoire, where he won the violin Premier prix in the 1910 Concour. Fradkin was briefly Concertmaster in Bordeaux and Monte Carlo, and also studied with Ysaÿe in 1911. Fredric Fradkin then played in 1912 with the Wiener Concert-Verein (Vienna Concert Society Orchestra, after 1933 called the "Vienna Symphony") in 1912. In 1914-1915 Fradkin was Concertmaster of the Russian Symphony Orchestra of New York , under Modest Altschuler. Freddy Fradkin then joined the Diaghilev Ballet Russe orchestra in their 1916 U.S. tour, conducted by Pierre Monteux.
Fredric Fradkin became Concertmaster of the Boston Symphony in the 1918-1919 season under Henri Rabaud. At this time, the impact of the warfare of World War 1 on public thinking was ever-growing, which generated significant anti-German sentiments. The concert public considered Fredric Fradkin as being the first US-born Concertmaster of a major U.S. orchestra - seen as an important event, subject of much comment. (Perhaps they had forgotten Nahan Franco, Metropolitan Opera Concertmaster 1883-1907, and brother of Freddy Fradkin's teacher Sam Franco.)
The next season, Pierre Monteux became conductor beginning 1919-1920. In this 1919-1920 season, the orchestra musicians sought to unionize and gain wage increases, which Fradkin as Concertmaster supported. Feelings escalated into March, 1920. On March 5, 1920, there was a confrontation in which Fredric Fradkin remained in his seat when Pierre Monteux gestured to the Orchestra to rise to recognize the audience applause for their performance of Berlioz's 'Sinfonie fantastique'. This caused a sensation, and that evening Fradkin was summarily dismissed by the orchestra Board80.
Following this spectacular event, Fradkin had a minimal later role in the concert world. 1922-1924, he was Concertmaster of the New York Capital Orchestra, a well-known theater orchestra (Eugene Ormandy became Concertmaster of the Capital Orchestra a few years later). Freddy Fradkin also toured in Europe in 1924. Fradkin became a freelance radio orchestra musician, and later opened a restaurant in New York City. For the next 35 years, Freddy Fradkin was not active in music concerts. Fredric Fradkin died in New York in 1963, age 71 after a varied, if perhaps blighted musical career.
There is a famous story (told many times, but still good) involving two leading violinists, Freddy Fradkin and Mischa Elman, attending a Jascha Heifetz concert with the famous wit and pianist Leopold Godowsky. One Saturday afternoon, 27th October 1917, Carnegie Hall was filled to hear the sixteen-year old violin sensation, Jascha Heifetz. Godowsky, his wife Dagmar and violinists Fradkin and Elman were seated in their box. Heifetz successfully performed a dazzling concert. At the interval, Godowsky's party retired to the open area behind their box. Elman wiped his brow, and said "Phew, it's awfully hot in there !" Godowsky, with his famous quick wit replied "Not for pianists !".
Labor Day (observed Sept. 2) is as good an opportunity as any to remember Frederic Fradkin (1892-1963), the protagonist of the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s first (and, to this day, only) strike. Born in Troy, N.Y., Fradkin showed such talent on the violin that he moved to Europe to study while still a teenager. A steady parade of appearances and accomplishments culminated with his appointment, in 1918, as the BSO’s concertmaster. A year later, Pierre Monteux became the BSO’s music director. Fradkin had previously worked with Monteux in Serge Diaghilev’s famous Ballets Russes, but their collaboration in Boston would be fractious.
Throughout the 1919-20 season, younger BSO players had been joining the musicians’ union, and steadily pressuring the nonunion BSO for more money. Henry Lee Higginson, the BSO’s founder, had paid his musicians well, but pay stagnated after Higginson’s departure, and the trustees dragged their feet creating an endowment sufficient to raise salaries. The tension finally snapped in March 1920.
The catalyst was a snub: Monteux refused to let Fradkin share his dressing room at a BSO concert at Sanders Theatre. At the next Symphony Hall concert, when Monteux motioned for the orchestra to stand, Fradkin (a proponent of unionization) remained firmly in his seat; the breach of etiquette elicited hisses from the audience. Following an impromptu meeting of the trustees, Fradkin was fired. The next night, in protest, 36 of his colleagues refused to play.
The strike proved quixotic — the BSO remained nonunion — but the trustees’ victory was Pyrrhic: 32 players, Fradkin included, refused management’s invitation to rejoin the orchestra, and Monteux was forced to spend the rest of his brief tenure rebuilding. (One of the few strikers who did return was Arthur Fiedler, future conductor of the Boston Pops.)
After years of being denied union soloists and guest conductors, the BSO finally unionized in 1942. By then, Fradkin was composing and conducting incidental music for the popular radio series “The Adventures of the Thin Man,” a freewheeling job that, he insisted, was more fun than the BSO ever was. In Boston, Fradkin recalled, “I had to behave myself.”
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