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Nielsen/Tchaikovsky: Violin Concertos
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Nielsen / Tchaikovsky violin concertos
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Award-winning Norwegian violinist Vilde Frang pairs Tchaikovsky s romantic and well-loved
violin concerto and the unique coloring of Nielsen s concerto in her third release for EMI
Classics. Tchaikovsky s Violin Concerto showcases Vilde s hugely assured virtuosity, but far
from mere empty fireworks, she exercises her technical facility as a means to cut to the
emotional core of the work. The end result is a truly remarkable recording of this warhorse
work jaw-droppingly accomplished playing fused with a depth of expression that belies her
young age. The concerto is not only regarded as one of the most technically difficult pieces
in the repertoire but also is considered one of the most famous of all violin compositions.
Carl Nielsen s Violin Concerto is very close to Vilde s heart. Composed in her homeland
Norway and premiered in Scandinavia by Danish violinist Peder Møller and the Royal
Danish Orchestra, Vilde was very keen to record the concerto. The work has a quintessentially
Scandinavian feel: simple but heartfelt melodies wrapped in a spacious,
windswept orchestral accompaniment.
Often compared to a young Anne-Sophie Mutter, with whom she sometimes performs,
Vilde s first recorded album Violin Concertos by Sibelius and Prokofiev,
released in January 2010 at the age of 22, was praised by the critics; rarely
has this music sounded so tender, so intimate or so lyrical (Financial Times),
while Independent Record Review called her prodigiously gifted. The disc
won Best Classical Release at the Norwegian Grammy Awards.
Her second album of sonatas by Bartok, Grieg and Strauss with pianist
Michail Lifits was released in March 2011 to great critical reception:
Another outstanding disc from Frang, who makes even the most wellworn
phrases sound as though they have just arrived freshly minted
from the composer s creative workshop (Classic FM magazine). Vilde
received the Newcomer award both at the 2011 Edison Classic
awards in Amsterdam and the 2011 Classic BRITs in London
Digital Booklet: Nielsen / Tchaikovsky violin concertos
Digital Booklet: Nielsen / Tchaikovsky violin concertos
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Producer(s) chose to place the Tchaikovsky violin concerto first on the disc. This is canny from all sorts of angles, from putting the two concertos in historical sequence, to giving the Nielsen pride of place, as it were. The risk taken by having the familiar Tchaikovksy come up first is simply that we have nearly all heard, almost too many performances of this concerto by now. While the music deserves its widespread popularity, on music CDs as well as in live concert halls, any soloist who dares to release yet another reading of it is taking on a challenge.
My fav shelves already bulge with the likes of Heifetz, Oistrakh, Spivakovsky, Kremer, Vengerov, Mutter, Repin, Sokolov and so forth. Of the younger players, Ray Chen's release stood out, so it joined the keepers. Now Vilde Frang comes along.
Her playing appears to be getting better and stronger. I hear a sense of sweep in her tone and phrasing and bowing that is very apt for the concerto's sense of theater. Frang invites a listener to get involved with her playing as she relishes the music at hand. She really digs into the Tchaikovsky for all its worth. Though she probably never plays badly, this disc comes across as the most compelling release so far. The tricky moments that Tchaikovsky wrote into the music are daunting, although modern players have more or less come to take those dares, more for granted as givens, than when the music was first written. The extra bit here is that Frang now rises to these familiar fiddle challenges by integrating the virtuosity into her larger musical views. To take this kind of step augurs well for her continuing musical growth as an artists, not to mention that we listeners get the thrill of having the fiddle technique put to important musical ends.
Added light, heat and musical strength for the Tchaikovsky sounds to be flowing out of the remarkably palpable musical rapport between Vilde Frang and our conductor, Eivind Jensen. He is not a star on the global music scene as such, but on the evidence of his outstanding work on this disc, he is quite a welcome musician. It takes a certain giftedness to yield yourself to the composer and to partner creatively with a growing young artist like Vilde Frang. Everybody just sounds delighted to be making music together. All departments of the orchestra (Danish National Symphony) sound wide awake, and the sense of alert ensemble really helps give the music extra life and liveliness. Kudos to the woodwinds who play Tchaikovsky's woodwind parts with sparkle and with warm glow. Hand shakes to the brass players, who are not afraid to blend a lot, just when the composer asks.
The violin concerto of Carl Nielsen is the best of the 20th century, to my ears. I admit I first found it odd, listening to the early Vox release on vinyl of a Scandinavian recording which featured Jerzy Semkow at the helm. That soloist may also have been Tossy Spivakovsky, I'm not sure. Suffice it to say that I eventually grew to hear what Nielsen is doing in this concerto, and the more I immerse myself in the music, the more increases my own sense of just how important, remarkable and elevated the writing for both soloist and orchestra really is. A good part of the challenge in playing this work might just be the fact that half-heartedness simply will not do.
A listener and most players could say that for all music, of course.
But the Nielsen concerto only comes across fully when played by people whose technique is matched by their ability to offer the music a rapt, profound attention and involvement. Ditto, for the orchestra accompaniment which can come across as so-so, or be fuel for the complex humanist fires that Nielsen sets ablaze. As might already be expected, the Vilde Frang melding of accomplished fiddle technique with the larger and more intensified musical picture makes the Nielsen concerto rise to special heights of power and eloquence. Until now, I had not heard a reading which could approach Nikolaj Znaider's two published performances. No doubt about it, though. To my ears, Vilde Frang now flies high enough in her Nielsen concerto to be in that rarified danger of having her musical wings melted by the next solar flare cycles. Her Nielsen concerto is both substantially nourishing and brilliantly soulful.
As in the earlier concerto on the disc, conductor and orchestra are with Frang, and the partnership is forceful. Any temptations to let the concerto become imbalanced because it asks the fiddle soloist to do and say so much are resisted by Jensen and the DNSO. They dig into their parts with relish, and seem to have been listening to Vilde Frang all along, so that when they strike musical fire from their instruments, they ride on the musical flow of the ongoing narrative with poise.
Many thanks to all involved in making this very welcome disc.
I also regard Frang's Nielsen concerto highly. It is more animated and colorful than the Virgin disc with violinist Arve Tellefsen and Menuhin/RPO. While both readings of the Nielsen are technically superb, Frang projects a welcome whimsy and enthusiasm that gives it more personality than I hear in the Tellefsen rendition.
I have purchased several other recordings by Frang. None have disappointed, and all possess individuality.
The only downside would be the very fair actual recording, which is soft and overall lacking in presence, typical of all European recordings other then those actually recorded in Britain.