Vilde Frang / Eivind Gullberg Jensen / Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra

Nielsen, Tchaikovsky: Violin Concertos

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Norwegian violinist Vilde Frang made her debut in 2010 with a pairing of concertos by Sibelius and Prokofiev. She repeats the formula here with works by Nielsen and Tchaikovsky, a somewhat risky move. But the fact is that she's exceptionally good in these repertories. Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 35, is in a way a work constrained by its tremendous virtuosity and the long performing tradition of which it is a part. It's hard to come up with something really new to say to it, but Frang makes a strong contribution with a graceful reading that avoids the tendency to push the big passages of the outer movement to a point just short of (or, in concert, just past) where a string breaks from the effort to get maximum volume out of it. Instead she favors detailed shaping of complicated stretches of passagework. It's quite distinctive, but the real news here is the Nielsen Violin Concerto, Op. 33, which had its premiere in 1912 and is not terribly often performed. It's a complex work in a mixture of idioms, from what annotator David Fanning calls neo-Baroque (actually much of it anticipates the sparkling neo-Mozartian language of the opera Maskarade), to developing figuration that anticipates the structures of Nielsen's symphonic works, to Tchaikovskian passages. These last help tie the program together in a novel way: how did Nielsen, a generation after Sibelius, react to the sounds of Tchaikovsky in his head? The Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra under Eivind Gullberg Jensen is not much more than workmanlike, but this is overall a fresh treatment of some highly familiar music and some that is less so.

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