The Strad Issue: January 2011
Description: A winning sonata debut from a young Norwegian violinist
Musicians: Vilde Frang (violin) Michail Lifits (piano)
Composer: Grieg, Bartók, Strauss

The young Norwegian violinist’s first sonata disc is an almost total success and her prize-winning piano partner handles his assignments so well that it is mingy of EMI to print his name so small – albeit the same size as the composers’ names.

It is brave of Vilde Frang to choose Grieg’s First Sonata, but she and Michail Lifits play it with such love, passion and youthful rapture that it comes alive. The skipping rhythms in the Allegro and the Hardanger fiddle effects in the Allegretto are superbly realised, with an excellent dynamic range. The finale is a more commonplace creation but they just about pull it off.

Suddenly we are getting used to hearing Bartók’s Sonata for Solo Violin played up to its potential. Frang’s strong, pungent but also deeply sensitive account joins those by Viktoria Mullova (Philips) and Barnabás Keleman (BMC) among my recommendations. Her intonation is terrific and, like the rest of her disc, this performance is clearly but atmospherically recorded.

For the Strauss Sonata, I prefer a more Olympian view such as that of Leonid Kogan (Melodiya or Vogue). But it is a youthful work and not everyone will feel, as I do, that Frang and Lifits are almost too rhapsodic in their approach.