Daughter of pianists Claude Frank and Lilian Kallir, Pamela Frank has commented that as a young child she failed to realise that her parents’ careers were in music—she thought playing was for fun, and grew up knowing several eminent musicians simply as her parents’ friends. Frank began studying the violin aged five with Shirley Givens, continuing at sixteen with Szymon Goldberg (Givens’s former teacher) and Jaime Laredo. She completed her musical education at the Curtis Institute of Music, Philadelphia, where her father was on the faculty.
Frank has appeared extensively as a soloist with numerous orchestras, especially in the USA and at international festivals. Her chamber music includes regular playing with her parents and a piano trio with Yo-Yo Ma and Emanuel Ax.
Teaching activities at the Peabody Institute, the Curtis Institute and the State University of New York Stony Brook augment Frank’s portfolio (becoming her primary focus following a hand injury in 2001), and in this field as well as her own playing she pays ample testimony to her musical pedigree and illustrious teachers. There is a muscular quality to her style that is immediately evident, as in her forceful Bruch G minor Concerto (2001), or her 1992 Beethoven ‘Kreutzer’ Sonata which displays an enviable parity between her approach and the authoritative pianism of her father. The Bruch’s slow movement displays warmth created through a sumptuous tone and well-judged sense of gesture which makes Frank’s playing not only technically assured but also emotionally arresting. Pianist Christopher O’Riley, with whom she has worked many times, likens her to a singer in her rhetorical approach; indeed, Frank always begins by singing parts of the score when learning a new work.
She seems well matched to the Violin Concerto of Ellen Taaffe Zwilich (live, 1998). Here an air of mystery leads beautifully from the haunting opening to the densely argued second movement with its evocation of Baroque forms, building to a menacing climax. Kernis’ Lament and Prayer—of which Frank gave the première—forms a more dense and esoteric sound world, but Frank delivers the work in her 1999 recording with amazing intensity and communicative intent, an overriding theme in all her playing.
© Naxos Rights International Ltd. — David Milsom (A–Z of String Players, Naxos 8.558081-84)