January 09, 2016
Vilde Frang to release new album of Britten and Korngold concertos in February
This is the young Norwegian violinist’s fifth Warner Classics release. Early 2015 brought a programme devoted entirely to Mozart, but her previous concerto discs were also notable for imaginative musical matchmaking: Tchaikovsky/Nielsen, andSibelius/Prokofiev. Both concertos on this new album were written when their composers were exiles in the USA around the time of World War Two: Korngold's was completed in 1945; Britten's in 1939. In the course of the 1930s Korngold, an Austrian Jew, had become a prominent Hollywood composer, but could not return to his homeland after 1938; the young Britten, a pacifist, left the UK for New York shortly before the declaration of war in 1939. Both composers had been child prodigies and both concertos are centred around the key of D, the most ‘natural’ key on the violin and the tonal focus for the violin concertos of Beethoven, Brahms, Tchaikovsky and Stravinsky.
Vilde Frang describes the Korngold concerto, which draws on several of his sumptuous movie scores, as “champagne, fireworks and indulgence… an ocean of emotions”. Korngold’s enveloping late-Romanticism is a world away from the more austere (but still sensitive and expressive) aesthetic that typifies Britten. As Frang says: “The first time I heard the Britten Concerto it was a new language for me, but it still spoke to me so strongly … I wanted to learn this language.” Many musical commentators have identified a thread of anxiety in the concerto – hardly surprising in view of the year of its genesis. Perhaps this resonates especially strongly with Frang, who feels that a sense of vulnerability is crucial to the creative process of exploring and interpreting a piece of music.
James Gaffigan, the young American conductor who collaborates with her and Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra on this recording, points out that her soaring imagination is complemented by consummate craftsmanship and professionalism. “There are very few people who are so full of fantasy, but who can also work with a conductor in such an extremely detailed way – and her tone and the variety of tools she can apply on her instrument are incredible.”
Reviews of Vilde Frang’s previous discs bear witness to the results she achieves in large-scale concertos of the 19th and 20th centuries: "Frang has the knack of breathing life into every note, whether by variations in phrasing, attack, tone or dynamic– just a few of the weapons in her impressive musical armoury," wrote BBC Music Magazine, while The Strad magazine, an authority in the world of stringed instruments, had this to say about her Sibelius: “Even bearing in mind such timeless accounts of the Sibelius as those by Jascha Heifetz [the violinist who premiered the Korngold concerto in 1947]...Vilde Frang is just that extra bit special."