Leah Hollingsworth hears the New York performance at David Geffen Hall on 24 July 2019
Vilde Frang plays with an almost unimaginably refined sense of style, and her elegant approach to the violin makes Beethoven’s Violin Concerto a perfect match. Despite the intricacies of the writing, she managed to produce long, silkily spinning lines in the mammoth first movement, never seeming to tire of the little notes, but always loving each one into a greater warmth and a longer line. Her piano dynamics were captivating, and her understated power was supported beautifully by the orchestra, whose tuttis were emphatic, well-shaped and rich – yet never overpowered Frang.
I especially appreciated Frang’s judicious use of vibrato – it was never too much or overly romantic, but added beautiful colour and depth to her sound. Her phrasing was clear and carefully constructed, and her cadenza (Kreisler’s) was transformative: the audience waited, breathless, for each note, and it seemed at times impossible that sound so elegant could come from an instrument played with so little movement – so gracefully controlled and yet expressive was her playing. The Larghetto was absolutely sublime, and Manze beautifully crafted the orchestral tuttis to match and support Frang’s conception of the work. The Rondo was playful and poignant without sounding trite or cute, and Frang made the acrobatics of the movement seem like the proverbial walk in the park, she played with such ease.
Manze’s enthusiastic but poised approach led the orchestra in a characterful, dynamic performance of Beethoven’s ‘Eroica’ Symphony no.3 after the interval. In particular, the third movement boasted sparkling spiccato from the violins, and Manze did a credible job of holding the tempo back so that the movement felt perfectly in control. In a demanding programme, the musicians of the Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra remained dedicated until the end, finishing with energy, clarity and joy.