Sonata No.1 in G for Violin and Piano, Op.78
Sonata in E flat for Violin and Piano, Op.18
Alina Ibragimova (violin) & Cédric Tiberghien (piano)
Reviewed by: Ben Hogwood
Reviewed: 13 September, 2010
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London
A new season of BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Concerts began in celebratory fashion with two Romantic violin sonatas, perhaps surprisingly composed just nine years apart – the Brahms finished in 1879 and the Richard Strauss completed in 1887.
Alina Ibragimova and Cédric Tiberghien demonstrated real chemistry in their performances, clearly enjoy their music-making together. This was particularly evident in their choices of tempos for the Brahms, coupled with an approach to rubato that was both carefully prepared and naturally responsive. For the first movement they were relatively relaxed, emphasising Ibragimova’s singing tone, which worked well with Tiberghien’s judicious use of the sustaining pedal. The finale brought forward more-rhythmic elements, but in the middle-movement Adagio the phrasing was less clear, the introduction for the piano almost rhapsodic. The more-troubled moments of the finale, taking place in the minor key, were fleetingly glimpsed before a peaceful resolution brought us full circle, the music ending with a smile on its face.
The Strauss received an imposing performance, immediately aligned to the grandeur of the piece; passionate yet superbly controlled. Control was particularly evident, especially from Tiberghien, who mastered the tricky task of bringing clarity from an especially crowded accompaniment while never threatening the balance. His darkly coloured, slow introduction to the finale was particularly striking, the movement then shifting to a daringly fast tempo that only briefly threatened melodic definition. Ibragimova projected beautifully, just occasionally struggling with intonation when the melodic intervals became especially wide. The principal themes were naturally phrased and memorable, the music surging forward. Despite the gloriously uninhibited playing in the outer movements the emotional centre was the Andante cantabile, marked as an ‘Improvisation’ in manner only, the notes fully written out. Both musicians enjoyed the softly-voiced dynamics in a movement casting its eye back towards Beethoven’s ‘Pathétique’ Sonata, the turbulent middle section providing appropriate contrast.