Exclusive: Soloist misses her flight home in bad Brum jam

Exclusive: Soloist misses her flight home in bad Brum jam


norman lebrecht

February 21, 2020

The latest review in the Slippedisc/CBSO100 season:


Symphony Hall *****

Vilde Frang had the cruellest of rewards after delivering Thursday afternoon’s knockout performance of Shostakovich’s fearsomely difficult First Violin Concerto: she missed her flight from Birmingham Airport. Her taxi had been unable to battle through stationary traffic in the underpass, she told me when I bumped into her  as she returned to her hotel, and she thought it would be a good idea for me to write a review of the Birmingham traffic situation. So I am.

Her response to the Shostakovich, a work searching technically, physically and emotionally, had gripped us all, right from its eloquently sustained opening, Frang’s grieving lines, muscularly accented, supported by a weight yet flexible CBSO under principal guest conductor Kazuki Yamada. She interacted particularly sensitively with the orchestral strings here.

Following a skittish, skeletal scherzo we had further evidence of Frang’s ability to trace long-spun lines in the powerful Passacaglia, the orchestra eventually silencing as she tackled the famously demanding cadenza, building tension inexorably until the orchestra burst in with the announcement of the finale. After metaphorically wiping her brow, Frang leapt in with a vicious attack, dispersing so much energy and stamina during the music’s unstoppable course,.

After such inward, personal musicality, the aural spectacle of Respighi’s Roman Festivals came as more than a shock. Yes, we were impressed by the sheer size of the assembled forces, with so many extras in terms of percussion, brass. piano, organ and the rest (in the two subsequent tone-poems of this Roman trilogy we would also hear a mandolin and a nightingale serenading a cuckoo), and Symphony Hall was the perfect venue for this sonic extragavanza; but for all the relentless power of the sound under Yamada, we wondered where the musical values actually were. I was kept waiting for the film to begin.

The musical quality of  Fountains of Rome and finally Pines of Rome was much higher, Respighi creating genuine atmosphere as his smaller-scale pieces usually do (try the Botticelli Triptych, as an example). Here we could relish impressionistic woodwind solos in dreamy nightscapes, well-driven rhythmic exuberance, and at least appreciate how well Respighi’s extragavanza had been rehearsed, and how judicious was Yamada’s balancing of these intricate textures.

Christopher Morley


  • Robin Smith says:

    Vilde was very fine again. Her Elgar Violin Concerto performance a few years back was of the very highest order as well.

    As a regular visitor to Birmingham via Milton Keynes I would strongly recommend using the rail link from Birmingham New Street to Birmingham International rather than the much more time consuming road route.

    • Christopher Clift says:

      Useful comment re general transport to and from Birmingham, but not much help to the soloist trying to fly somewhere – mind you she might have made the flight had she used the train from New Street (why not call it Grand Central??) to B’ham International

  • Bruce says:

    The whole Roman Trilogy in one concert? An admirable undertaking, but… ouch.

  • Tim Walton says:

    Why on earth did she go by taxi. The metro stop is right outside Symphony Hall and is 5 minutes to New Street Station. Trains from the station to the airport take a further 10 minutes. Anyone who goes by taxi obviously has more money than common sense. Her agents must be idiots and not worth the money the soloist is paying them.

    • Bruce says:

      Yes. Only an idiot would be unfamiliar with Birmingham’s public transit system, or want some peace and quiet for themselves after performing a grueling concerto. Silly girl.


    • Bruce says:

      Seriously, though: can you imagine someone’s agent — anyone’s agent — telling them that their transportation to the airport after their performance will be the bus and train?

  • Nijinsky says:

    Ah yeah, Botticelli, I used to sit with him at a coffee house and hear how dramatic his family was, but didn’t hear from him how royally, only that he had to pass a religion class in high school. Softest moist breath I’ve ever witnessed. Of course there was another guy around during, someone that managed to get himself committed to an asylum saying he was pregnant, that at a hospital that had told me they had no such tests to determine whether he was or not. If a traffic jam had interfered, he might have found a more honest doctor than such a Catholic’s established “Saint Mary’s” which one should be able to sue them about. No such thing as immaculate there apparently.