Alina Ibragimova and Cédric Tiberghien made an impressively assured partnership in their Gallic influenced recital spanning some fifty years across the first half of the 20th century. Variously exotic, impassioned and bluesy, it was a programme that drew powerful, emphatic accounts, both players clearly revelling in the stylistic variety.

Alina Ibragimova and Cédric Tiberghien
© Richard Cannon

They began with Szymanowski’s Greek-inspired Myths (1915), its three movements saturated with an impressionistic aura, atmospheric and alluring. The delicate shimmering that begins The Fountain of Arethusa could have been more ethereal, but elsewhere, Ibragimova and Tiberghien brought mystery and soulfulness, its watery evocation vividly caught with no lack of drama, the whole underpinned by the soloist’s impeccable tuning and gold-plated technique. Poetic shadows in Narcissus (the Greek God who fell in love with his own reflection in a pool and was transformed into a flower) brought indulgence and introspection, its extended final note further suggesting of prolonged self-admiration. Dryads and Pan found both players in sparkling form, Tiberghien always an attentive partner to Ibragimova whose vertiginously slithering double-stopped passages were despatched with terrific control. Characterful playing here that illuminated haunting and skittish qualities, but it was Tiberghien’s big boned playing that especially caught the ear.

Next was a seldom performed sonata by a composer often described as “half monk, half hooligan”. Yet this label perfectly defines the opening movement of Poulenc’s 1943 Violin Sonata (dedicated to the Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca) with its combination of rage and affection. Despite a dislike for string instruments and a belief that “nothing is further from the human voice than a bow stroke”, Poulenc fashions an attractive work, if one he dismissed as “frankly no good”. The Allegro con fuoco was blistering, violin and piano both volatile, terrorising one moment and tender the next. Yet its lyrical underbelly was not too far from the Parisian salon music the composer professed to despise. Some of this energy never quite subsided in the Intermezzo, its elegiac quality hinted at, neither player relaxing enough to allow its sense of heartbreak its rightful place. High jinks characterised the Presto tragico where earlier latent anger returned in a performance of sparkling agility, its atmospheric coda a reminder of Lorca’s brutal death in 1936. 

Alina Ibragimova and Cédric Tiberghien
© Richard Cannon

Gabriel Fauré was the dedicatee of Eugène Ysaÿe’s Poème élégiaque. It’s a brooding and impassioned work of 1893 that brought considerable fervour from Ibragimova and Tiberghien and prompted a consideration that this was perhaps a “poème héroïque”. Just occasionally an unyielding, strenuous tone emerged, sinewy rather than poetic, foregrounding dramatic rather lyrical features. Of its title, Ysaÿe observed “it weeps and sings, it is shadow and light, it is free and needs only its title to guide the composer”. This resolute account underlined its shadows and, in its expansive gestures, suggested a motive for its later orchestration.

From the rich harmonic palette of Ysaÿe we segued to the austere beauty of Ravel’s Violin Sonata in G major. This account generated a silken cantabile from Ibragimova and delicate support from the piano, in a first movement where each instrument seems largely independent of one another. In the blues-style movement there was plenty of insouciance, jazz elements clearly “waymarked” along its journey. Its tensions were released in a scintillating moto perpetuo, Ibragimova dazzling all the way to its climatic finish and confirming the virtuosity of two performers at the top of their game. 

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