Camilla Wicks

Sibelius, Valen: Violin Concertos

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For most listeners, the great thing here will be the 1952 recording of Sibelius' Violin Concerto with soloist Camilla Wicks accompanied by Sixten Ehrling leading the Stockholm Radio Symphony. An American born in Long Beach, CA, of Norwegian stock, the young Wicks was so deeply, passionately, and completely under the skin of the concerto that a more sympathetic and exciting performance of the work is hard to imagine. For some listeners, though, the great thing here will be Wicks' performance of Fartein Valen's Violin Concerto recorded in 1949 with Oivin Fjeldstad conducting the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra. In what was in all likelihood the brief single-movement work's world-premiere recording -- the notes make no note of it -- Wicks turns in a performance of fearless confidence and fierce concentration, a performance that may even convince at least some of the unconverted as to the virtues of Valen's austere yet lyrical atonal counterpoint. As a bonus for any listeners, Biddulph has included Wicks solo HMV recordings made between 1949 and 1951 with Ehrling at the piano -- her soulful Nigun by Bloch, her searing Improvisation by Kabalevsky, her hilarious March from The Love of Three Oranges by Prokofiev, and her dreamy performances of arrangements of four of Shostakovich's early Opus 34 Preludes, plus his Polka from his ballet The Age of Gold -- along with her five unissued Columbia recordings from 1951 with an unidentified accompanist -- including a tremendous Malagueña by Sarasate and a droll but delightful Pastorale by Stravinsky. Offered here in Biddulph's manifestly antique but clear enough for seasoned listeners sound, these performances belong on the shelf of any fan of twentieth century violinists, especially twentieth century American women violinists.

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