Alina Ibragimova & Cédric Tiberghien at St John Spencer Hill

Sonata in G minor for Violin and Piano
Sonata in G for Violin and Piano
Sonata in G for Violin and Piano
Sonata for Violin and Piano, Op.posth.
Tzigane – Rapsodie de concert

Alina Ibragimova (violin) & Cédric Tiberghien (piano)

Reviewed by: Andrew Morris

Reviewed: 23 November, 2010
Venue: St John Spencer Hill, Wimbledon, South London

Alina Ibragimova. Photograph: Sussie AhlburgIn only its second year, the International Wimbledon Music Festival has succeeded in attracting an impressive line-up of world-class musicians to south-west London’s churches and halls. One of a number of recitals held at the church of St. John’s Spencer Hill during the course of the Festival’s two weeks, this concert was given by one of the most celebrated of young duos in a programme of French music, which they are currently recording. Confirming Alina Ibragimova as one of the today’s finest violinists, this programme also revealed Cédric Tiberghien as a supremely sensitive partner.

The duo impressed most of all in the Debussy and Ravel works, surely two of the finest instrumental Sonatas ever composed. These pieces particularly displayed Ibragimova’s combination of unfailing technical ability and gripping spontaneity. The Debussy was characterised by a totally convincing air of regret. Ibragimova whispered the first movement’s second theme and, as so often, Tiberghien was able to play beneath her quietest pianissimos, never obscuring her line. In the finale her earlier intense inwardness was countered by razor-sharp rhythmic control and bountiful energy.

Cédric Tiberghien. ©Eric ManasIn the later of the two Ravel sonatas the pair again delighted with their exceptional control of character and tone. The second movement, ‘Blues’, begins with a lazy strumming on the violin continuing to a blues-inspired melody made ultra-suave by Ibragimova. As with many of Ravel’s later works, the sonata is touched by a frightening wildness, captured particularly by Ibragimova with some ferocious pizzicato. By contrast, Ravel’s earlier (1897) if posthumously published Violin Sonata seems naive in spirit, untroubled by the wartime experiences that would later colour his music. The duo excelled in the long sweeping melodies which foreshadow the magnificent and sumptuously harmonised lines of Daphnis et Chloé.

In Ravel’s dizzying gypsy fantasy Tzigane, Ibragimova found a greater volume than ever before, seeming at times to press the sound from her instrument while Tiberghien injected great swagger into his playing. In great contrast, the pair gave Ravel’s serene Berceuse sur le nom de Gabriel Fauré as an encore.

Guillaume Lekeu (from Belgium) is a name that registers little these days. While his Violin Sonata is his most famous work, it’s still a piece on the fringes of the repertoire, really only known from a 1938 recording by Yehudi Menuhin. Lekeu was just a day older than twenty-four when, in 1894, he died, but his sonata had been composed for the most famous violinist of the day, Eugène Ysaÿe, which ensured it something of a performance legacy. It was, at more than thirty minutes, the longest work on this programme and perhaps not well served by following the economical and direct Debussy work. Lekeu’s primary mode is the long flowing melodic line and all the movements, even the in the faster sections, seem to operate in the same way. It’s undoubtedly an attractive work cast in a similar mould to César Franck’s Violin Sonata (also written for Ysaÿe) but even this duo couldn’t stop it feeling rather rambling. Ibragimova seemed on occasion to be asking more of her instrument than it was ready to give, producing a rasping sound at the bottom end of the range when playing at the greatest volume. It is, though, a pleasure to hear works rarely performed and this team deserve credit for giving Lekeu’s work their full commitment.

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