Sonatinas for Violin and Piano – in D, D384; in A minor, D385; in G minor, D408
Alina Ibragimova (violin) & Cédric Tiberghien (piano)
Reviewed by: Ben Hogwood
Reviewed: 7 January, 2013
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London
While still in his teens, Schubert wrote four works for violin and piano that could have been given the label ‘sonata’, yet none of the four were published with that title due to its unpopularity at the time. The first three, completed in 1816, bear instead the designation of Sonatina, and fit snugly into an hour-long recital. For this BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Concert at Wigmore Hall, Alina Ibragimova and Cédric Tiberghien performed the three in order of publication, which gave the hour a satisfying emotional ‘push and pull’. Beginning with serenity and good humour in the D major, we turned to the more austere and angular contours of the A minor work, before anxiety turned to affirmation in the final pages of the G minor example.
The performances were attentive and detailed; capturing the youthful zest of Schubert’s writing but also the heavier heart that shows itself in the minor-key works. The slow movements were lyrical and sang beautifully through Ibragimova’s Georg von Opel instrument, with Tiberghien prompting sensitively to keep the pulse – which, in the first slow movement, was quick, even for Andante. Occasionally Ibragimova’s phrasing tailed off towards the end of a melody, most prominently in the relatively stern Minuet of the A minor work, while in the same piece she dispensed with vibrato for a short while in the first movement, introducing a strikingly bare sound to the melody.
In the Sonatinas Schubert treats the piano and violin as equals, as did Beethoven and Mozart, and makes reference to the sonatas of Mozart in particular such as the vivacious Minuet from the G minor Sonatina. Here the crisp, articulate playing of both musicians was a delight. Schubert’s fertile melodic production was brought to the fore both here and in the first movement, where the approach was grittier. Tiberghien’s ‘rounding off’ of phrases was very nicely done, though at times his slight rubato could lead to a blurring of the rhythmic profile. These were however very fine performances, the fruits of Schubert’s skill with the combination of violin and piano, to which he kept faith right through to the year of his death.