Vilde Frang: Homage
For openers Vilde Frang treats us to a chirpy morsel by Franz Ries, La capricciosa, a piece that as a boy Yehudi Menuhin famously recorded, his performance – like hers – playful and romantically inclined. ‘Homage’ treads a route that leads back to recitals where, after the interval, the greats of yore would follow the last principal work on their programme with musical sweetmeats very much along these lines. Frang occasionally hints at those stylistic prompts, Fritz Kreisler in the Rondino on a Theme of Beethoven and Kreisler’s transcription of Mendelssohn’s Song Without Words ‘May Breezes’, Op 62 No 1 (not so named here), though I wasn’t sure about the po-faced, militaristic slant at the start of Kreisler’s own Gypsy Caprice (marked Allegretto, molto ritmico).
Still, all comes right again for Dvořák’s E minor Slavonic Dance, loose-limbed and expressive playing, with the instrument’s higher reaches sounding like imitated birdsong. Jascha Heifetz is brilliantly and wittily evoked in his own transcription of Albéniz’s ‘Sevilla’ and Ponce’s Estrellita, where Frang’s approach is deliciously warm and intimate. ‘Poldowski’ was the pseudonym of Wieniawski’s youngest daughter and her belligerent Tango is redolent more of Szymanowski than of her father, who is represented by two pieces, one of them arranged by Kreisler. All receive winning performances.
Other composers represented include Schumann, Schubert, Scriabin, Prokofiev and Bazzini (Calabrese rather than the still-ubiquitous La ronde des lutins). We’re given Debussy’s La plus que lente in Léon Roques’s sensual arrangement and Heifetz’s take on Gluck’s ‘Dance of the Blessed Spirits’, the only performance that didn’t really take my fancy, Frang here it seems hell-bent on marking exaggerated crescendos on certain notes that draw undue attention to themselves (the violin line is marked piano for most of the time). The trick here surely is to employ art that conceals art, which Frang usually does and which her greatest forebears always did. Good sound, fine piano-playing from José Gallardo and excellent notes from Andrew Stewart.