Britten: Violin Concerto, Op 15; Korngold: Violin Concerto in D major, Op 35

Reviewed on Fri 04 Mar, 2016

In the Britten concerto Vilde Frang plays with blistering intensity and seemingly limitless reserves of tender compassion; James Gaffigan and an outstandingly responsive Frankfurt Radio SO play their full part in a performance which simply demands to be heard.

Norwegian virtuoso Vilde Frang cements her reputation as one of the most communicative artists on the current circuit with this superbly stimulating offering. Her sublimely articulate advocacy of the riveting concerto that Britten wrote in 1939 calls to mind the very finest exponents on disc, perhaps above all Ida Haendel, whose nourishing 1975 alliance with Paavo Berglund and the Bournemouth SO (EMI/Warner) has stood the test of time. Frang plays with blistering intensity and seemingly limitless reserves of tender compassion, employing a daringly wide range of dynamics – always, I should stress, at the service of the music (the closing pages are quite extraordinarily moving). James Gaffigan and an outstandingly responsive Frankfurt Radio SO play their full part in a performance which simply demands to be heard. It's preceded by a comparably understanding and marvellously assured account of Korngold's big-hearted, ripely lyrical concerto premiered by Jascha Heifetz in January 1947. Needless to say, Frang proves a dazzlingly assured protagonist, and once again Gaffigan and company lend superbly alert, pungently characterful support. Wonderfully realistic sound and balance to match. A terrific issue, this, and surely one of finest 2016 will bring us.
–Andrew Achenbach