Bartók; Grieg: Strauss, R Violin Sonatas
Those who’ve heard Vilde Frang’s EMI recording of Sibelius and Prokofiev concertos (4/10) will be keen to sample this. For the duo sonatas she’s teamed with a pianist who shares her perceptive musicianship – an ability to find the right shape for every phrase – as well as her polished technique. I always associate the Strauss Sonata with Heifetz’s ardent, sensuous interpretation. Frang, however, is in her own way just as persuasive; if there are a few moments where we feel she is too restrained, it’s soon clear that it’s in order to bring into relief a subsequent, more passionate section. Though Frang’s tone generally appears quite light and silvery, she has ample reserves, and none of the climactic moments disappoint. Lifits, too, finds a wonderful, brooding sonority for the finale’s introduction, before bursting forth, Don Juan-like, at the Allegro.
They perform the Grieg quite freely, not always observing the expression marks, and Frang (very effectively) adds chords in the second movement. This is a remarkably fresh, imaginative account, with Lifits relishing Grieg’s unconventional harmony.
In the Bartók I was immediately struck by Frang’s fine rhythmic sense and varied tonal palette. Her playing has the necessary physicality for Bartók, without ever appearing forced. She characterises the different motifs in the Fuga sharply and, in the third movement, moves compellingly through the long melody. I’m not convinced by the sul ponticello start to the finale (my score just has con sord), but overall it’s a top-class performance and, indeed, the whole programme is clearly a winner.