Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 35
Violin Concerto in D minor, Op. 15
When Vilde Frang programs violin concertos in unexpected pairs, such as her 2010 coupling of Jean Sibelius' "Violin Concerto in D minor" with Sergey Prokofiev's "Violin Concerto No. 1 in D major," or her 2012 disc of Carl Nielsen's "Violin Concerto" matched against Pyotr Il'yich Tchaikovsky's "Violin Concerto in D major," the results are quite fascinating. For this 2016 release on Warner Classics, Frang plays the "Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 35" of Erich Wolfgang Korngold and the "Violin Concerto, Op. 15" of Benjamin Britten, and the works invite comparisons because they are so dramatically different. Korngold's music inhabits the lush and soaring style of late Romanticism, while Britten's is decidedly modernist, angular, and edgy, albeit still tonal and approachable. This is a good match, because the Korngold concerto is so rich and sweet, it needs a palate cleanser, which the acerbic Britten work supplies. Yet while Britten's concerto dates from 1938-39, it's somewhat surprising to find that Korngold's was composed after it in 1945, showing that style is less a matter of time period and more a state of mind. Frang plays each work with appropriate expression, giving Korngold a passionate and moving performance, while reserving a dry tone and even brittle delivery for the Britten, which still offers its own kind of lyricism. With solid accompaniment from James Gaffigan and the Frankfurt Radio Symphony, Frang delivers a fascinating display of her technique and interpretive skill, and makes this one of the most successful albums in her discography.