I first heard Norwegian violinist Vilde Frang in a 2015 recording of Mozart Concertos. I quickly became hooked on her gorgeous tone and exquisite musicianship and have followed her career with interest ever since.
Frang’s playing has an honesty and simplicity that allows everything she plays a fresh perspective, free of artifice and the histrionics that other, maybe more technically gifted players project into the music.
Here, we have two very individual concertos, just slightly off the Brahms, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky and Sibelius main road. Benjamin Britten’s wartime Concerto, written in the late ‘30s when exiled as a pacifist in the USA. Korngold wrote his Concerto at the end of the war. The Concerto was dedicated to Alma Mahler, Gustav Mahler’s widow and first performed by Jascha Heifetz.
I’m a huge admirer of Korngold’s film scores. The Concerto is akin to hearing his great movie melodies (he borrowed from Juarez, Anthony Adverse, Another Dawn, and The Prince and the Pauper) but structured by the very young, very brilliant and very serious Korngold. It’s a beauty of a piece. Frang plays it superbly and lets the gorgeousness speak for itself. She does not gild the lily. James Gaffigan and the excellent Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra accompany beautifully — the intonation of the winds is flawless. And your subs will get a workout.
James Gaffigan, conductor. Photo credit: Peter Weinberger
The much more problematic Britten Concerto, both musically and technically, is given a reading of equal quality. A recent favourite recording of this masterpiece is by Canadian James Ehnes (Onyx Records with Kirill Karabits conducting the Bournemouth Symphony). Frang now supersedes it. Ehnes is a genius fiddler but Frang matches him every step and digs even deeper to the icy abyss. Frang gets a better orchestra and recording, too.
Frang’s dynamic control in the Britten is nothing short of breathtaking. And her technical prowess in the lengthy final Passacaglia is the violinist at her very best.
It’s great to see fantastic concertos like the Britten and Korngold receiving so many modern recordings of worth. If the coupling is of interest to you, Frang’s your gal.
Release Date February 26, 2016