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Vilde Frang Debuts with the NSO

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Nielsen / Tchaikovsky, Violin Concertos, V. Frang, Danish National Symphony Orchestra, E.G. Jensen
(Warner Classics, 2012)
We had been following Vilde Frang on disc and streaming audio when we first heard her live, with her mentor, Anne-Sophie Mutter, and the Camerata Salzburg in 2008. The young Norwegian violinist had been announced at one point for the tour with the St. Petersburg Philharmonic last season, hosted here by Washington Performing Arts, but the first chance to hear her in a solo concerto came last night, in a concert with the National Symphony Orchestra. She should have been playing Carl Nielsen's violin concerto, which she has recorded so beautifully for Warner Classics, but instead she played Bruch's first concerto, last heard just in 2011 with Joshua Bell. The piece was sandwiched between Stravinsky's charming suite from the ballet music for Pulcinella, last heard from the NSO in 1993, and Tchaikovsky's fifth symphony (unreviewed).

Juraj Valčuha, Chief Conductor of the Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale della RAI in Turin, chose lovely tempi in the Stravinsky, a piece that is a modern reworking of 18th-century music, usually considered the beginning of the composer's neoclassical period. The concertino, comprised of the principal string players, had a delicate, chamber music sound, featured prominently in the gently paced opening movement. The oboe solo lilted beautifully in the second movement, all guided by the confident gestures of Valčuha, albeit with some questionably violent accents insisted on here and there. The Tarantella was rollicking in its off-beat shifts, and the boisterous trombone solo in the Vivo movement was a hoot, the whole thing sounding like Baroque dance music hybridized with Offenbach.

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Frang has most impressed me with the trance-like sound of her pianissimo tone, which served her well in the concerto's opening exchanges between soloist and orchestra. She played the faster sections of the first movement with a free sense of rubato, her vibrato-heavy left hand producing a rich throaty sound. Valčuha helped to control the orchestral volume to suit the smaller scope of his soloist's tone, giving the musicians their head in the lush, full-bodied tutti sections, producing outbursts of sound. Occasionally, especially in the Adagio, Frang's vibrato was so heavy that the intonation erred a little too far south, but the pyrotechnics of the Finale, a few minor intonation issues aside, were impressive. This was not an earth-shattering debut, but Frang more than proved her worthiness to receive another invitation. Please, NSO, let it be Nielsen next time.

This concert repeats tonight and tomorrow, in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Who cares about minor technical errors when the Vilde Frang's musicianship was so great? Yes, Frang should return back ASAP.