Vilde Frang & Julien Quentin at Wigmore Hall [Schubert & Richard Strauss]

Sonata in A for Violin and Piano, D574 (Duo)
Sonata in E flat for Violin and Piano, Op.18

Vilde Frang (violin) & Julien Quentin (piano)

Reviewed by: Ben Hogwood

Reviewed: 6 July, 2009
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London

Replacing the indisposed Leonidas Kavakos in this BBC Lunchtime Concert, 22-year-old Norwegian violinist Vilde Frang with pianist Julien Quentin kept the programme’s principal work, Richard Strauss’s Violin Sonata, and paired it with Schubert’s ‘Duo’, both works the products of violinist-composers in their early twenties.

Quentin wrestled manfully with the rapid octave passages that Strauss assigns to the left-hand, along with intense and extended melodic phrases. His resistance to the temptation to play with sheer volume was admirable, maintaining ideal balance. Playing Anne-Sophie Mutter’s violin, Frang secured a pleasingly full tone, especially in the higher register, where her tuning was immaculate, particularly in the first movement’s strong development section, where a broad vibrato was effectively employed.

Both players secured effective contrasts between the sombre mood of the second movement’s opening and its more extrovert improvisation, and did likewise in the finale, where the darkly menacing piano introduction gave way to virtuosic upward sweep from the violin, the mood becoming heroic. There were also enjoyable touches of humour; subtle reminders that Strauss was about to publish Till Eulenspiegel.

A lighter touch was found for one of Schubert’s more humorous works, with Frang and Quentin enjoying the warmth of the first theme with unexpected languor. The darting motifs and violin sforzandos of the scherzo were particularly enjoyable, while the perky main subject of the finale was nicely rendered. Again Frang’s tone was on the full side, though lighter in the slow movement, and the enjoyment both players took from Schubert’s closely integrated part-writing was clear.

As an encore Frang gave the fifth of Sibelius’s Humoresques, Opus 89c, playing the shrill harmonics and instantly memorable theme with an affectionate charm.

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