Prokofiev; Sibelius Violin Concertos
On this her debut recording, the young Norwegian violinist Vilde Frang makes a considerable impact. It’s clear that the Sibelius Concerto means a lot to her; she’s continually searching for the tonal quality and manner of playing that will project most strongly her vision of the music. Her full, rich, unforced tone at the start of the Adagio and her bold, almost manic way with both the main themes in the finale are typical examples of her ability to recreate an inner view. And her technique is secure enough to surmount all Sibelius’s virtuoso hurdles. Søndegård and the orchestra bring out the score’s brooding, sombre character, helped by a spacious, naturally balanced recording. I was surprised, however, at the way Frang ignores many of Sibelius’s detailed markings: at the very opening she plays pp senza vibrato instead of the marked mf dolce ed espressivo – here the effect is so beautiful I can imagine the composer might have approved; other departures from the score aren’t quite as persuasive.
The three Humoresques are a most welcome addition: Frang’s empathy makes the most of the individual touches with which Sibelius transforms the conventions of salon music. The Prokofiev gets a fine performance, too, though one that tends to tone down its more pungent qualities. By the side of Szigeti’s benchmark 1935 recording (EMI, 2/94 – nla) it emphasises unduly the music’s sweet, romantic side, rather than the fierce, often grotesque sonorities in which Szigeti and his conductor, Beecham, take particular delight. I expect to hear a lot more of Vilde Frang.