Peter Quantrill attends the performance of Stravinsky’s Violin Concerto at London’s Barbican Hall on 20 January 2024 


Vilde Frang. Photo: Marco Borggreve

Vilde Frang recorded Stravinsky’s Violin Concerto a few years ago, and her rebarbative way with the opening Toccata continues to throw down the gauntlet to her accompanists. She led Oramo and the BBCSO on a not-so-merry dance, pulling the pulse about and having no truck with the potentially Neoclassical elements of Stravinsky’s 1931 writing.

By springing into the first Aria with hardly less ferocity, Frang kept up a similar level of intensity. On the one hand, her approach made individual sense as an adaptation of the conventional concerto form; on the other, it continued to look forward to the Stravinsky of Agon while finding unlikely common ground with Schoenberg’s concerto of five years later.

The finale offered not so much catharsis as Cubism, flattening out the usual thematic contrasts while using some unusual accents to turn up singular perspectives on the heterogenous nature of Stravinsky’s inspiration for the violin writing: a stamping Russian folk song here, a clackety Spanish rhythm there, a virtuoso flourish from the Corelli-Paganini handbook and a Chablis-dry aside. More harum-scarum coordination, more scampering to keep up; Frang kept everyone – audience and orchestra alike – on the edge of their seats. She is a force of nature.