PCM1: Vilde Frang & Michail Lifits – Ravel, Mozart & Lutosławski

Sonata in G for Violin and Piano
Sonata in G for Piano and Violin, K379

Vilde Frang (violin) & Michail Lifits (piano)

Reviewed by: Andrew Morris

Reviewed: 15 July, 2013
Venue: Cadogan Hall, London

Vilde Frang performing Mozart's Violin Sonata in G. Photograph: BBC Proms 2013 websiteThe BBC Proms Chamber Music recitals (every Monday lunchtime during the season) commenced in refreshing style, in both performance and atmosphere. The cool and light space of Cadogan Hall was the very antidote to the gruelling heat of the first weekend in the Royal Albert Hall base, and this recital delivered music-making of beguiling intensity.

Norwegian violinist Vilde Frang’s Proms debut was ample proof of her abilities. In Ravel’s late Violin Sonata, she revealed lucid depths and brilliant clarity, and her long-standing partnership with Michail Lifits felt instinctive and communicative. Ravel toiled long and hard over this work, but Frang and Lifits brought flashes of spontaneity that belied the composer’s arduous effort. Michael Lifits. Photograph: Felix Broede Frang was not quite at ease with the ‘Blues’ idiom of the second movement, seeming more comfortable with spiky interplay with her partner and the ‘Perpetuum mobile’ finale featured some brilliantly conversational exchanges.

The duo located the Mozart firmly in the tradition of the Romantic era, making no concessions to ‘period’ practice and ringing the grand opening movement for all its proto-Beethovenian worth. It was all the better for it, with sections richly characterised and each of the finale’s variations considered as a fresh image. Frang let the piano lead the way – after all, this is a Sonata for piano with violin accompaniment. Lifits responded with playing full of weight and colour, producing a wonderfully involving performance.

The programme was completed with centenarian Lutosławski’s Partita, composed in 1984 for Pinchas Zukerman. As with so many of the extended forms of this composer, Partita’s gradual accretion of momentum and rage was plain to hear, and was all the more affecting for Frang and Lifits’s expressive directness, the violinist displayed a dizzying array of colourful effects and the pianist drawing startling volume from his instrument. Together they were terrifically incisive.

There followed a gentle and starry encore, Jascha Heifetz’s arrangement of Manuel Ponce’s Estrellita.

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