Violinist Alina Ibragimova and pianist Cédric Tiberghien formed their duo partnership when they were both BBC New Generation Artists and have since been hailed as the up-and-coming duo, but Thursday’s recital at Wigmore Hall showed the amazing maturity of their partnership.

Alina Ibragimova © Sussie Ahlburg
Alina Ibragimova
© Sussie Ahlburg

Their programme was substantial and well thought-out, containing four works by composers of the same generation: Debussy (born 1862), Lekeu (born 1870), Ravel (born 1875) and Szymanowski (born 1882). Yet their performances highlighted the differences of the works rather than any stylistic similarities. Another common factor was that none of these composers were violinists themselves, which probably enabled them to explore the instrument in individualistic and new ways.

Ibragimova and Tiberghien opened with an atmospheric account of Debussy’s compact Violin Sonata which in turn shimmered and sparkled. Ibragimova’s clear tone floated lightly above the crisp playing of Tiberghien and her beautifully controlled arpeggios, glissandi and harmonics brought out Debussy’s unique sound world.

Whereas Debussy’s Sonata was a late work, Lekeu composed his Violin sonata when he was 22 and it is full of youthful energy. Unfortunately he died two years later and this three-movement sonata remains the only one of his oeuvre that is performed with any regularity. Personally, I feel that the sonata is a little excessive and long-winded in places, but Ibragimova and Tiberghien sustained the energy throughout and their youthful and passionate performance convinced me that this is indeed a masterpiece. In particular the introspective second movement was touchingly played, before the work culminated in a joie de vivre ending.

Szymanowski’s 3 Myths is a striking work which could perhaps be described as post-impressionist. Most of the violin line lies incredibly high in the register, but Ibragimova negotiated the technical challenges with ease, soaring beautifully above the equally evocative piano part. In The Fountains of Arethusa, Tiberghien set the tone of the work perfectly with delicate rippling water sounds, and in Narcissus and Dryads and Pan, the beauty and precision of Ibragimova’s playing, especially her sustained pianissimos, was totally mesmerising.

Ravel’s popular G major Violin Sonata concluded the advertised part of the programme. It was a sophisticated and suave performance but for me their approach seemed a little too serious, and in particular the jazz-influenced second movement, where the violin imitates a banjo, could have done with a bit more light-heartedness. The piano playing seemed somewhat heavy-handed too. The performance went down a storm however, and astonishingly the duo treated us with a dazzling rendering Ravel’s virtuosic Tzigane as an encore! No wonder the audience were beaming with pleasure as they left the hall.