NIELSEN; TCHAIKOVSKY Violin Concertos
Vilde Frang’s compelling, individual performance of the Tchaikovsky compares most interestingly with Ray Chen’s recent recording. Her volatility, her extravagant rubato contrasts with Chen’s more moderate manner; with him we experience the grand sweep of Tchaikovsky’s melodies, while with her it’s the individual moments that stand out. In the Canzonetta, her very quiet entry portrays a sense of fragility, yet before the end of the first phrase her playing has become uninhibitedly emotional. Sometimes her sense of fantasy gives her a distinct edge over Chen – for instance, in the C major transformation of the first movement’s main theme (tr 1, from 7'35") but she earns a black mark for her reinstatement of some of the little cuts that used to disfigure performances of the finale – unsurprisingly, most violinists have now decided that Tchaikovsky knew exactly what he was doing and that this piece is neither too long nor excessively repetitious.
I found Frang’s Nielsen quite a revelation. Vengerov shows what an impressive virtuoso vehicle it is while staying sensitive to the frequent and often surprising changes of mood. Frang, allowing herself a much wider range of tone, emphasises the music’s kaleidoscopic aspect, bringing out the poetic quality of many episodes. She gives her entry in the Allegro cavalleresco a playful, spirited character that goes beyond Vengerov’s brilliance and brings out the harsh dissonances in this movement’s cadenza with uncompromisingly sustained tone. The orchestra enters into the spirit with lively tuttis (especially in the scherzando finale) and well-characterised wind solos. All in all, it’s a most appealing performance.