David Frisina, the long-reigning concertmaster of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra and a prolific studio musician, died Nov. 1 in Sherman Oaks of complications from Alzheimer’s disease. He was 86.
Hired in 1937 by conductor Otto Klemperer, Frisina moved up to concertmaster six years later. At age 28, the violinist was the youngest concertmaster in the United States.
Frisina retired from the Philharmonic in 1978 but recorded with Hollywood studio orchestras until 1996. He contributed to 277 movie soundtracks, 440 records with singers such as Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald, and 300 television shows. He also played for 24 years with the Academy Awards Orchestra.
But Frisina’s core career was the Philharmonic, where he served as concertmaster for three decades. When he stepped down from the position in 1973, then-conductor Zubin Mehta praised him as “one of my closest colleagues, not only musically, but also in building this orchestra to its current standard of excellence.”
Frisina developed a reputation in his rare Philharmonic solos for choosing nonstandard pieces, commenting: “I think it is my job as concertmaster to play the things the guests avoid.”
Born in Morristown, Pa., Frisina began studying violin at age 6. He attended the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, and when he graduated, he followed his teacher Alexander Hilsberg to California, where he took a job as a clerk in a Hollywood music store.
The philharmonic’s then-concertmaster Bronislaw Gimpel happened to hear him practicing behind the counter, suggested an audition with Klemperer, and Frisina was hired.
Frisina’s wife of 57 years, Corinne, died in 1998. He is survived by two sons and three grandsons.