FRAUTSCHI is an intimate portrait of one of the most influential (and least known) guitar pedagogues in Russia: Kamill Frautschi (1921-1997). A violinist himself, Kamill taught his son Alexander Frautschi (1954-2008) to play guitar. Alexander became the first guitarist from the Soviet Union to achieve international fame. The Frautschis were Swiss émigrés in Russia. Kamill's father Arthur Frautschi ('Artuzov'), a top-ranking officer of the NKVD (later: KGB), fell victim to Stalinist purges in 1937. As a result, Kamill spent his youth in the Gulag. Through interviews with students, family documents, home videos, and an audio tape he recorded late in his life, this documentary brings Frautschi's ideas on music teaching and performance to any audience interested in music and art.
Frautschi is a 49-minute-long documentary video about Moscow’s legendary underground guitar teacher Kamill Arturovich Frautschi, whose impact on Russian guitar pedagogy has been profound, but whose legacy so far remains unrecognized and unstudied. This obscurity is due to no small degree to the fact that Frautschi insisted on keeping his distance from the conservatoires and other official teaching institutions, and taught only privately. Nevertheless, a large number of conservatoire students took regular lessons from him in his private studio and considered him their main musical influence.
Originally a violinist trained in Moscow by the highly influential violin professor Elena Fabianovna Gnessina, Frautschi responded to his son Alexander’s decision to study guitar by developing his highly original teaching methodology for that instrument. Frautschi’s teaching principles offer a generalized approach to music making that addresses the whole gamut of the physical, intellectual, social, and emotional dimensions of musical performance, and are ultimately applicable to any instrument. Crucial to his philosophy are his (somewhat Nietzschean) concepts of the “memory of power” and the “memory of slavery.” Designed to aid the practical aspects of music making, however, his philosophy remains entirely concrete. He especially emphasized the performer’s physical comfort and even pleasure. These are strikingly un-Soviet concepts: individual empowerment and the pursuit of pleasure came close to blasphemy in the context of Soviet collectivist ideology.
Frautschi’s independence of spirit can be understood in light of the tragic history of the Frautschi family. Kamill’s grandfather Christian Frautschi (1856-?) had moved from the Swiss village of Lauenen to the Tver’ Region around 1890 to manufacture cheese. Christian’s son Arthur Frautschi (1891-1937) got involved in the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. He later (under the code name “Artuzov”) became a senior officer of the ChK (predecessor of the KGB) and was the main architect of the early Soviet counterespionage system. In 1937, Artuzov fell victim to Stalin’s repressions and was shot. His 15-year-old son Kamill was sent to the Gulag, where he spent nine years, surviving only because, as a violinist, he was chosen to perform in the camp’s orchestra. However terrible that whole experience must have been, all of our interviewees agree that Frautschi valued his memory of those Gulag years surprisingly highly: many of his fellow prisoners were Russian intellectuals and aristocrats, and he credited them with having been his most important educators. The Gulag memories, combined with several other stories about Frautschi’s childhood and youth as the son of a high-ranking Bolshevik, often connect surprisingly directly to his musical teachings.
Since he never wrote his ideas down, Frautschi’s legacy is mostly oral. Fortunately, through the last year of his life, when he was already almost blind, Frautschi attempted to preserve some key ideas in audio recordings. We received these invaluable recordings from one of his last students and collaborator, Anna Toncheva. Although it is not very long, the audio recording gives a glimpse of the astonishingly concentrated complexity and depth of Frautschi’s thinking. It serves as an indispensable capstone in the architecture of the film.
Russian classical music and ballet enjoyed unquestionable authority around the world throughout the 20th century. For a variety of reasons, guitar performance did not have a share in this glory. Until the very end of the 20th century, guitar was generally not offered at the conservatory level, and Soviet guitarists were unknown to and isolated from the West. Kamill Frautschi brought the same high standards of Russian violin performance to an instrument to which they had not been applied before. His son Alexander Frautschi was the first Soviet guitarist to tour abroad and to win an international competition. It is generally unknown that the father of this outstanding guitarist was also his most important teacher. Alexander Frautschi went on to become a highly influential teacher himself, and after his untimely death in 2008, the Frautschi legacy still lives on in a great number of other Russian guitarists active today.
Bringing together pedagogy, philosophy, music, and video, we strive to develop a filmic language that does justice to all aspects of this project in a documentary of high artistic value that we hope will be as illuminating for an educated general audience to watch as it has been for us to make it.