BBC New Generation Artists

Violin Concerto No.1 in D, Op.19
Fantaisie for flute and orchestra, Op.79
Poem for flute and orchestra
Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Op.43

Alina Ibragimova (violin)

Sharon Bezaly (flute)

Eduard Kunz (piano)

BBC Symphony Orchestra
Edward Gardner

Reviewed by: Kenneth Carter

Reviewed: 2 February, 2007
Venue: BBC Studio 1, Maida Vale, London

All three soloists are members of the BBC’s New Generation Artists Scheme.

Alina Ibragimova began at the Moscow Gnessin Special School. Sharon Bezaly made her debut aged 14 with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra and is now a full-time soloist and recording artist. Eduard Kunz made his debut aged 10, graduated from the Moscow conservatory in 2003 and is now at the Royal Northern College of Music.

Edward Gardner was Music Director of Glyndebourne Touring Opera during 2003. In 2005, he conducted the British stage premiere of John Adams’s “The Death of Klinghoffer” at Edinburgh and was awarded the Royal Philharmonic Society’s Young Artists Award. In May 2007, he begins as Music Director at English National Opera.

Prokofiev’s First Violin Concerto has the movement structure that Walton made familiar – slow-fast-slow. The soloist opens in chamber-like vein, quiet and delicate. This suited Alina Ibragimova admirably. Her tone is for the most part soft and gentle, tending towards thin. Later, during exuberant and full-bodied orchestral sound, she could not always make herself heard. At one point in the finale, however, when required to play richly in her instrument’s lower register, she was successfully robust. Her virtuosity is evident, as is her bravura – effectively, Baroque in scale. Edward Gardner’s conducting was excellent – enthusing the BBCSO to reach the pith and point of Prokofiev with stylish ease.

Sharon Bezaly’s golden flute was amazing. Its mistress made it do anything, splendidly. The Fauré began in pastoral vein, almost hazy. Suddenly, the composer pitched us into a waterfall of notes, tumbling and trilling in a wash of spray. This was virtuoso playing indeed, with aplomb – the skill was as if nonchalant. Charles Griffes died young – an American with some European training. His Poem distilled the American outdoors via his own sensibility. It was pleasing and had something of a voice of its own – straightforward and yet hinting at what was tender as well as what was manly. Then we eased into a dance of global inspiration – a hint of the Irish, tambourines for the Orient – and were soon catapulted into a whirling, jubilant frenzy. All this was flute-led, in exuberant splendour.

Lastly, we heard a magnificent Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. Gardner’s approach was muscular, clear and pointed. He treated many of Rachmaninov’s notes in isolation, paying scrupulous attention to their colouring and timbre, as well as their length and resonance. The consequence was that he could introduce each Variation authoritatively, announcing its particular pace, mood and thrust. Through this approach, Gardner made solid preparation for Eduard Kunz – a very cool approach, far from the warm-blooded romanticism that many conductors seek. Kunz matched this approach. His playing was brilliant and shapely; contrasts were well-differentiated – a little calculatingly, but the underlying intelligence was marked. With some effort, he was, at appropriate times, affecting and gentle. Overall, this was riveting performance – from all concerned.

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