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Vilde Frang (violin)
José Gallardo (piano)
rec. 2017, Sofienberg kirke, Oslo
WARNER CLASSICS 9029580532 [54:51]

There have been a number of similarly homage-oriented albums in the last few years; a tribute from a current player to the giants of the past whose concert programmes, and indeed recordings, were enriched by their encore morsels. This time it’s the turn of Vilde Frang to select from the voluminous catalogue of available music and she has clearly focused on arrangements and transcriptions closely associated with Kreisler and Heifetz – so much, so expected – but has also cast her net sufficiently wide, I’m glad to report, to include a Szigeti transcription of Scriabin.

In a lively church acoustic with Frang balanced in front of José Gallardo there are 17 pieces to enchant, enthrall and interest. It was Menuhin who recorded Ries’ La capricciosa in one of his first wunderkind sessions though it was also a favourite of Campoli and Kulenkampff, both of whom recorded it as well. With her light, tight and deft bowing Frang’s witty, fanciful playing is matched by Gallardo’s firm chording all the way. Though Oistrakh and indeed Heifetz are more ardent in Leopold Auer’s arrangement of Widmung, Frang is warmly persuasive and she proves a buoyant Wieniawski player – why more players don’t play the Wieniawski and Vieuxtemps concertos these days is beyond me, unless there’s still a prevailing snobbishness about them.

Heifetz recorded Léon Roques’ delightful transcription of La plus que lente, though her elegance is at a far remove from his tensile heat. Gluck’s Melodie is an Old School favourite and works best when underplayed – Grumiaux proving a stylistic lesson in chaste beauty; Frang loves it to distraction. Poldowski’s Tango was once the discographic preserve solely of Heifetz. ‘Poldowski’ was actually Irena, the youngest daughter of Wieniawski, and her Tango is no sinuous dance, it’s athletic and powerful and Frang responds by digging deeper into the strings.

She plays the Scriabin-Szigeti well, even though the transcriber’s tarter and more metallic tone brings a very characterful quality to his own old recording. The Kreisler brace – the Rondino and Gypsy Caprice – make a good pairing, as the former is ubiquitous, the latter much less so. Frang finds good reserves of pathos toward the end of the Dvořák-Kreisler Slavonic Dance, plays Mendelssohn’s May Breezes nicely, and the Prokofiev-Heifetz Masques with incisive attention to detail. Throughout she doesn’t seek to replicate period devices, either in terms of portamento or tonal colour; she remains herself identifiably. Thus, there’s a relaxed and calming Ponce Estrellita – which is how most fiddlers play it, with the exception of its transcriber, Heifetz, who plays it with the hooded intensity of a hawk. She ends with Bazzini’s Calabrese from Six morceaux caractéristiques, which makes a welcome change from La ronde des lutins.

The booklet notes are attractive and cogent and the ensemble with Gallardo highly effective. Frang has selected an attractive programme that will appeal to violin fanciers who don’t expect or want expressive devices associated with the originals. For that, you’d have to turn to Heifetz and Kreisler themselves, or to Shumsky, Szeryng, Rosand, Gingold, Gimpel and the like.

Jonathan Woolf

Franz RIES (1846-1932)
La Capricciosa (1925) [2:53]
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Myrthen, Op.25 No1: Widmung (1840) arr. Leopold Auer [2:37]
Henryk WIENIAWSKI (1835-1880)
Mazurka in G Major, Op. 19, No. 1, 'Obertass' (1860) [2:16]
Caprice in E-flat Major, Op. 10, No. 5, 'Alla Saltarella' (1854) trans. Fritz Kreisler [2:05]
Christoph Willibald von GLUCK (1714-1787)
Orfeo ed Euridice: Mélodie (1762) trans. Fritz Kreisler [2:57]
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-01828)
Rosamunde von Cypern, Op.26 D797: Ballet Music; No.9 in G trans. Fritz Kreisler [3:30]
POLDOWSKI (1879-1932)
Tango (1923) [3:05]
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
La plus que lente (1910), transc. Léon Roques [4:37]
Alexander SCRIABIN (1872-1915)
Etude in D-flat Major, Op. 8, No. 10 (1894) transc. Joseph Szigeti [2:10]
Fritz KREISLER (1875-1962)
Rondino On a Theme by Beethoven [2:41]
Gypsy Caprice [5:04]
Antonín DVOŘÁK (1841-1904)
Slavonic Dance in E Minor, Op. 46, No. 2 (1878) trans. Fritz Kreisler [4:18]
Sergei PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)
Romeo and Juliet: Masques, Op.75 (1937) trans. Jascha Heifetz [2:05]
Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)
Song without words, Op.62 No.1 ‘May Breezes’ (1842-44) trans. Fritz Kreisler [2:39]
Isaac ALBÉNIZ (1860-1919)
Suite española No.1: Sevilla, Op.47 (1886) arr. Jascha Heifetz [4:32]
Manuel PONCE (1882-1948)
Estrellita (1913) trans. Jascha Heifetz [3:17]
Antonio BAZZINI (1818-1897)
Six morceaux caractéristiques: Calabrese, Op. 34, No. 6 (1859) [3:58]



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