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Tchaikovsky • Neilsen

COMPOSERS: Pyotr Tchaikovsky; Carl Nielsen
ALBUM TITLE: Tchaikovsky • Neilsen
WORKS: Violin Concertos
PERFORMER: Vilde Frang (violin); Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra/Elvind Gullberg Jensen


A well-loved warhorse might simply have been pressed into service to sell the less familiar of these two concertos; but young Norwegian pioneer Vilde Frang makes almost as much of a strange adventure out of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto as she does of Nielsen’s typically quirky specimen. The collective Danish violins give the cue, playing Tchaikovsky’s first phrase with gracious refinement, before Frang draws us into an unusually introspective stream of song. Though the tone is never obviously spectacular, she can pull the stops out when she needs in a few choice phrases of the first-movement cadenza, and the rustic tune over drone bass in an otherwise sprightly finale. She tends to add plenty of softer-end dynamics and tempo adjustments of her own, all of which make musical sense. I wonder if in a concert hall the subtler nuances would carry so well, but this is a recording and different rules apply; sample the unfolding of the Canzonetta to see if this sort of inward playing works for you.

Nielsen’s steady winning through to a more contemplative frame of mind at the ends of his Praeludium and slow movement proper is magically achieved. All that’s finest about Frang’s chameleonic approach is summed up in the two unconventional cadenzas. And after the second of these, she displays supernatural lightness of touch as the rondo’s courtly virtuosity dissolves. There can be no higher praise for Eivind Gullberg Jensen and his mellow, warmly recorded Danish orchestra than to say that they’re unobtrusive but always likeable companions, matching Frang’s chamber-musical sensitivities at every point.


David Nice