Even bearing in mind such timeless accounts of the Sibelius as those by Jascha Heifetz (RCA), Isaac Stern (Sony) and Christian Ferras (EMI DVD), Vilde Frang is just that extra bit special. Supported to the hilt by Thomas Søndergård and his outstanding Cologne orchestra, Frang weaves an emotional narrative that is utterly spellbinding, from the work’s ravishingly cool, vibrato-less opening bars to the bracingly exultant finale. What makes this recording so special is not so much Frang’s seductive, sinewy yet voluptuous tone, nor her effortless technical mastery; it is her startling emotional sincerity and inspired musical imagination that rivet the attention. Phrases that one has heard turned disinterestedly countless times before are nurtured and caressed by Frang with such daring expressive openness and honesty that it feels as though the music’s inner soul is being revealed for the very first time. The magic continues in the Prokofiev, whose dreamy opening Frang shapes with an exquisite sensitivity to rival even Schlomo Mintz (DG) and David Oistrakh (EMI). In the whiplash scherzo, she somehow finds time to characterise Prokofiev’s moto perpetuo figurations with myriad subtle phrasal inflections that reveal the human side of this exhilarating outburst of mechanistic mayhem. The Sibelius Humoresques are no less revelatory, making the perfect end to a luminously engineered disc that is surely bound for classic status.
From the March 2010 issue. Subscribe to The Strad or download our digital edition as part of a 30-day free trial.