Following Alina Ibragimova’s recent residency in the medieval Library of Chetham’s School during the Manchester International Festival, her programme of some of the most complex solo violin works has now transferred for a short spell at Wilton’s Music Hall as part of the Barbican’s summer Blaze festival. I used the word “spell” deliberately, for this was a spellbindingly magical and engaging musical evening. Alina Ibragimova opened with the angry strident notes of Berio's Sequenza VIII, a homage to the famous Ciaccona from Bach’s Partita 2 which Berio called "the high point in which past, present and future violin technologies coexist". That Ciaccona followed the original solo violin version. Ibragimova gave this a powerful performance, perhaps in response to the Berio, although she also showed her ability to play at the very edge of the violin’s tone. The climax of the evening was Bartók's Sonata for Solo violin, which starts with a movement marked Tempo di ciaccona. Bartók’s bleak and occasionally jagged four movement work was written as he was dying under treatment for leukemia. He was haunted by childhood memories of a young girl lying dead in her coffin. Alina’s playing was accompanied by an atmospheric film specially commissioned from the animators, The Quay Brothers, the sub-text of which was - “Bartók alone in a room, like someone who has turned away from the disturbing chaos of his leukemia, reflecting only from an infinite distance the final meaning of complete order. A glance at a mirror captures an unknown window and initiates a rush of subtle intimations and associations of inner and outer worlds...”.

© Sussie Ahlburg
© Sussie Ahlburg

I first heard Alina Ibragimova play in a small chamber group while she was studying baroque violin in London. I later raved about her solo Bach concerts and the CD of the complete unaccompanied Bach violin works. This concert, in the uniquely tumbledown setting of Wilton’s Music Hall (an important historic building that must be allowed to survive), reminded me of what first attracted me to Alina’s playing – her absolute and mesmerising involvement with the music. She plays with her gaze totally focused on her violin, with rarely more than a shy glance at the audience. Apart from reflecting her own emotional attachment to the music, this draws the listener in to her world. She is undoubtedly one of the most exciting young musicians around, combining an extraordinarily well-honed technique with an exquisitely innate sense of musicianship. Although she has all the attributes that could have allowed her to be lured her into the wet T-shirt style promotional advertising hype and Classic FM pops musical choices that so many of her age and looks succumb to, she has instead concentrating on building a solid reputation for music making of the highest order. Her approach to music is aptly reflected by her choice of repertoire for her first three CDs - works by Karl Amadeus Hartmann, Nikolai Roslavets and Karol Szymanowski and then Bach. To her long list of impressive honours has recently been added the 2010 Critics' Music Circle Award for Exceptional Young Talent and the 2011 Royal Philharmonic Society Young Artist Award.

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