Edward Elgar’s expressive, episodic B minor Violin Concerto Op. 61 is still relatively rarely played on the continent. But fortunately, times have improved immensely, because the younger violin queens and violin masters take on this concert, which is fantastic in all directions, with great commitment.
For local orchestras, this means increased rehearsal work in order to credibly find their way into Elgar’s “language”. The situation is completely different when one of the best-known British ensembles, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra under the precise direction of Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla, performs the orchestral part in its mother tongue, so to speak. When a soloist as captivating as Vilde Frang is also on the podium of the Isarphilharmonie, there is a roaring ovation at the end of this multifaceted violin concerto novel.
The enormous extent of the concerto requires the soloist to use her strength wisely. Otherwise there is a danger of exhausting oneself in the large-format first movement, of exhausting one’s lyrical reserves in the slow movement, so that the huge finale may only be survived with audible difficulty.
But Vilde Frang shaped the virtuoso impact of the first movement with sparkling top tones and similar passages, was able to conjure up poetic magic so passionately that one followed her breathlessly in all episodes of this music. She managed the Andante to a certain extent in the sun, the finale became an exciting climax with the always enchanting dream of the Cadenza as the mysterious center – memorable.
Then Sergei Prokofiev’s “Romeo and Juliet” ballet music. If the “Birminghamer” for Vilde Frang had expanded Elgar’s soundscape in many layers, they now showed Prokofiev’s sarcastic wit, the force of the orchestral blows, the refinement of the timbres in all aspects of this grandiose score. Thunderous cheers, into which Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla shouted that one should definitely come to the great city of Birmingham!