Classical CD Reviews

MENDELSSOHN: Violin Concerto in E Minor; The Hebrides Ov.; Violin Concerto in D Minor – Alina Ibragimova, v./ Orch. of the Age of Enlightenment/ Vladimir Jurowski – Hyperion

The familiar Mendelssohn staples receive their due, but the early Concerto in D Minor receives as pure a reading as we are likely to hear.

Published on October 9, 2012

MENDELSSOHN: Violin Concerto in E Minor; The Hebrides Ov.; Violin Concerto in D Minor – Alina Ibragimova, v./ Orch. of the Age of Enlightenment/ Vladimir Jurowski – Hyperion

MENDELSSOHN: Violin Concerto in E Minor, Op. 64; The Hebrides Overture, Op. 26; Violin Concerto in D Minor (1822) – Alina Ibragimova, violin/ Orch. of the Age of Enlightenment/ Vladimir Jurowski – Hyperion CDA67795, 56:22 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] ****:

Russian violin virtuoso Alina Ibragimova (b. 1985) has a special fondness for the two concertos of Felix Mendelssohn, her having performed the youthful D Minor Concerto at the Yehudi Menuhin memorial concert in 2000. Her recording (2-4 September 2011 in Henry Wood Hall, London), however, opens with the 1845 Concerto in E Minor, certainly among the most esteemed examples of the Romantic concerto genre. Ibragimova moves through the first movement’s suave filigree like the traditional hot knife through butter, her Anselmo Bellosio 1775 instrument particularly lustrous. The performance certainly proves capable, lyrical, and spontaneous, though by this time in our collective listening, there rarely appear revelations. The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, true to its former leader Sir Charles Mackerras, makes a relatively small ensemble sport a large but transparent sound, and Jurowski’s passionately clear readings of the Concerto and the 1830 Fingal’s Cave Overture testify to a kind of modified “authenticity” of expression. The C Major Andante, intimately rendered, gives way to the skittishly virile E Major last movement, perhaps even more tonally alert with the concert pitch A= 437Hz.

The 1822 Concerto in D Minor, a product of the thirteen-year-old Mendelssohn, extends the youth’s pedagogical training in works by Rode  and C.P.E. Bach, particularly the latter’s pre-Classical empfindsamkeit style of emotionally long stretched lines with sudden shifts of registration. The opening Allegro’s call for constant, active runs, rockets, and bustling crescendi serve as foils to the slow episodes of declamation and risoluto, martial progressions. Again, the thin textures afforded by the Age of Enlightenment forces provide an antique, edgy excitement to the whole. The fioritura prior to the first movement coda will have any auditor’s blood pumping.

The spirit of Mozart informs the lyrical Andante, whose grave, chromatic bass line marks something already extraordinary in this youthful composer’s musical  palette. A tiny cadenza from Ibragimova leads to the interface of violin and orchestra, the lines held in sterling, aerial poise in a cantilena of lovely purity. The string writing carries the fluency of Mendelssohn’s own efforts at string symphonies with the lyrical model of Viotti’s Italian style. A gypsy spirit moves the final Allegro, a popular rondo that could pass for the Hollywood version of Transylvanian scenes before Larry Talbot shows up. Ibragimova’s brief cadenza has enough sizzle to whet our appetites for more of the concerto and more of her immense talent.

—Gary Lemco




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