Ruslan and Ludmilla – Overture
Violin Concerto in E minor, Op.64
Scheherazade – Symphonic Suite, Op.35
Alina Ibragimova (violin)
London Symphony Orchestra
Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos
Reviewed by: John-Pierre Joyce
Reviewed: 25 March, 2012
Venue: Barbican Hall, London
There was something of an unprepared feeling about this concert, not least due to the sudden indisposition of pianist Yuja Wang. She had been due to play Bartók’s Second Piano Concerto, which would have provided the edgy modern core in a programme of mainstream Romantic works. Instead of replacing it with something in a similar vein, Mendelssohn’s ubiquitous Violin Concerto was slotted in. At least the LSO got Alina Ibragimova to play it. She knows the work well, and was out to impress – although the focus on technical brilliance came at the expense of a personal interpretation. Her overall delivery was rather tense, even uptight – an impression exacerbated by her constant bending and crouching movements. Still, there was a raw, incisive cadenza in the first movement, and a spirited, even humorous delivery of the finale. She was ably supported throughout by the LSO and the patiently watchful Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos.
The Overture to Glinka’s Ruslan and Ludmilla was penned at around the same time as Mendelssohn’s concerto, and it provided an apt curtain raiser. Its rhythmic upbeat quality and resonant brass writing made it ideally suited to the LSO. Strange, then, that after the interval Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade threatened to fall apart.
Whether it was lack of rehearsal time or Frühbeck’s sluggish conducting (which at times descended into repeated arm waving) was anyone’s guess. The opening brass chords sounded sloppy and the textures throughout the first movement frayed with some mediocre playing. The main martial theme in the second movement was tiresomely volleyed around the orchestra until conductor and orchestra finally got a second wind and turned out a brilliant performance of the last two movements. ‘The Young Prince and Princess’ could have been slushy, but a fine balance gave it warmth and dignity. There was drama and brilliance too in Festival at Baghdad’, the LSO coming into its own.