This first of four Mostly Mozart concerts conducted by Andrew Manze showcased two of Beethoven’s masterworks, opening with an uncommonly gentle reading of the Violin Concerto. Following a superbly rendered orchestral introduction, Vilde Frang made a radiant entry. Her light-touch articulation, song-like vitality, and extraordinary range of tone were truly mesmerizing, and embraced an otherworldly rendition of Kreisler’s lyrical cadenza. Extremely attentive to dynamics and tempo, she and the MMFO were perfectly coordinated. Frang takes an odd, seemingly-disinterested stance when not playing. With her violin hanging by her side, she stands nearly motionless, calmly gazing around. And then, when she lifts her instrument, her demeanor transforms. Her intimate, searching style – especially evident in the delicate Larghetto – was followed by understated if heavenly playing in the Finale, granted a sensitive accompaniment.
With his highly energetic and totally committed conducting, Manze then delivered a gracefully lyrical account of the ‘Eroica’, characterized by crisp strings and exceptional clarity from woodwinds. Tempos for the first movement varied considerably, and in the ‘Funeral March’ his dignified and spacious reading gave full emotional weight to the music, followed by an exuberant and bouncy Scherzo, marked by particularly playful contributions from the three horns. It was the urgent Finale, with its wonderfully transparent textures, that provided the most drama. But, on the whole, this was a performance more elegant than exciting.