Ragin (pronounced RAH-gin) is not a familiar
name. Her full name is Ragin Wenk-Wolff. Her write up indicates
that she is primarily active in Norway and Denmark. Her choice
of two 'contemporary' violin concertos speaks well of her dedication
to music. Her playing on a 1689 Stradivarius is impeccable. She
studied with Milstein and Rosand.
The Kvandal is folksy in a way that sometimes
speaks of the influence of Nielsen and at other times leans towards
the harsher objectivity of Alan Rawsthorne or Bartók. The
central movement is unambiguously romantic in a way that all but
suggests Heifetz in Korngold. Ragin's flamboyant playing exploits
the gypsying rhythmics of the finale. Kvandal studied with Joseph
Marx in Vienna, Boulanger in Paris and Tveitt in Oslo.
The Söderlind Violin Concerto is in three
'Pezzi', each carrying a mood qualifier. The first movement was
written afresh after the assassination of the Swedish Prime Minister,
Olof Palme. This Pezzo Serioso is splendid, occupying a
world in which the violin concertos by Berg and Walton have met.
The Pezzo Capriccioso is made of combustible material which
true to its nature flames and furies along - at times like the
William Schuman concerto without that work's cliff edge monumental
qualities. The finale, Pezzo Appassionato, is tense and
lyrical with some lovely orchestrational touches as at 2.30 where
tinkling bells provide a backdrop to the violin’s caustic bel
canto. The microphone placement and the acoustic of the Vitkovice
House of Culture suit this music very well. A few reservations
I had about such issues in the case of Laurence Jeanningros's
Scharwenka Centaur disc do not apply here.
Two Scandinavian violin concertos with the Kvandal
more folksy than the prickly-inventive Söderlind. If you
have a taste for the Nielsen, Rawsthorne and Bartók concertos
you will like the Kvandal. If you prefer a strain bred from the
Walton, Schuman, Berg and Frankel concertos then the Söderlind
is a must-have.
An unaccountably overlooked disc.