Vilde Frang: WSY-Artist 22-23

Norwegian Mood

Vilde? A wild child, with its negative connotations, is hardly a description of Vilde Frang. In other words, someone who cares little about anything else, be it the notes or what’s happening around her on stage; someone who simply does her own thing regardless of the consequences. Rather, this musician’s stage presence is such that she appears to be speaking, to be engaged in continuous dialogue. Animated by an innate ability to communicate and with her bright and flexible tone (and that famous pianissimo!), Vilde Frang is always carrying on a lively conversation with others, at times introducing fresh topics, at other times listening with curiosity and reacting with sensitivity, catching the musical ball before passing it on – whether to chamber music partners or an entire orchestra. It therefore seems fitting that first name of the violinist, who was born in Oslo in 1986, derives from Alvilde or Alfhild, which in turn come from alfr (elf) and hildr (battle). Yet we would advise against making clichéd or banal attributions, or indulging in psychobabble! At most we might look at the elements that make up her name and mention something about the interplay of talent and work – and everyone on stage needs that. It’s not for nothing that reviews of Vilde Frang regularly extol her playing style in terms that go far beyond ‘girlish’ or ‘dominant’, ‘enchanting’ or ‘decided’. No, the musician remains herself – unique, effortless, natural. It certainly helped and continues to help that from an early age she knew where she was heading. A photo shows Vilde Frang at age five, wearing fluffy slippers and playing the violin in the living room – for an audience of several rows of soft toys, which cover the entire couch.

‘I was many things, but certainly not a wunderkind!’, she says, deflecting the oft-quoted but double-edged label. ‘A wunderkind is someone who can play all the great violin concertos perfectly at a young age – Menuhin was a wunderkind, and there have certainly been many others, such as Anne-Sophie Mutter, Sarah Chang and Midori. My childhood, however, was more akin to a fairy tale, in as much as I grew up in very peaceful surroundings in Norway and enjoyed a wonderful upbringing. I read a lot, went often to the opera and the theatre, and otherwise grew up in no way cut off from normal life.’ But that certainly didn’t stop her from making her debut at the age of ten with the Norwegian Radio Orchestra, and at the age of twelve with the Oslo Philharmonic – on that occasion with Mariss Jansons conducting. By that time she had already found a strict yet supportive mentor in the aforementioned Anne-Sophie Mutter, whose foundation gave her the use of a violin from the workshop of Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume dating from 1864 – it was the instrument that allowed Vilde Frang to establish her major international career. This has long since taken her to the most renowned ensembles and the most prestigious concert halls in the world. However, she still found herself ‘arguing’ daily with this violin, as she admitted in an interview. So is there more than just a touch of hildr in Vilde Frang’s life as a musician? Perhaps. Nevertheless, it was ‘an incredibly beneficial process’ to ‘have an instrument I had to slave away at. Without it I probably wouldn’t have developed nearly so far as a violinist. My new violin, a Guarneri del Gesù, is completely different. It cloaks me in ermine and places a crown on my head.’

Certainly the Wiener Symphoniker are more than happy to roll out the red carpet for their esteemed colleague. Vilde Frang recently joined them for Alban Berg’s Violin Concerto, performing it with the Wiener Symphoniker in Vienna and on tour. Now she returns as an WSY-Artist: with the elfin noblesse and effortlessness of Felix Mendelssohn’s e minor Violin Concerto, with Béla Bartók’s Second Violin Concerto and its constant renegotiation of the balance between classicism and modernity, and with the superb concerto by Edward Elgar, full of magnanimity, greatness and a wondrous sense of melancholy.

 

Concerts with Vilde Frang in the 22-23 Season
 
Wiener Konzerthaus, Great Hall
Rouvali, Frang / Rossini, Mendelssohn Bartholdy, Stravinsky
Wiener Konzerthaus, Great Hall
Rouvali, Frang, Piano Meets Percussion / Mendelssohn Bartholdy, Strawinsky
Musikverein Wien, Great Hall
Urbanski, Frang / Penderecki, Bartók, Dvorák
Musikverein Wien, Great Hall
Urbanski, Frang / Penderecki, Bartók, Dvorák
Wiener Konzerthaus, Great Hall
Luisi, Frang / Elgar, Schmidt
Wiener Konzerthaus, Great Hall
Luisi, Frang, Rett / Elgar, Schmidt