Classical CD Reviews

SCHUBERT: Complete Works for Violin and Piano – Alina Ibragimova, violin/ Cedric Tiberghien, piano – Hyperion

An entirely suave, often brilliant display of salon and virtuoso music for violin and piano by Schubert, seamlessly performed and recorded.

Published on September 2, 2013

SCHUBERT: Complete Works for Violin and Piano – Alina Ibragimova, violin/ Cedric Tiberghien, piano – Hyperion

SCHUBERT: Complete Works for Violin and Piano = Violin Sonata in D Major, D. 384; Violin Sonata in A Minor, D. 385; Violin Sonata in G Minor, D. 408; Violin Sonata in A Major, D. 574 “Duo”; Rondo in B Minor, D. 895; Fantasy in C Major, D. 934; Sei mir gegruesst! D. 741 – Alina Ibragimova, violin/ Cedric Tiberghien, piano – Hyperion CDA67911/2 TT: 117:41 [Distr. By Harmonia mundi] ****:

Recorded in Henry Wood Hall, London, 27 July – 4 August 2012, the complete violin and piano music of Schubert as performed by Russian virtuoso Alina Ibragimova (b. 1985) illuminates the powerful connection between the Mozart style and Schubert’s emerging musical personality in salon style from 1816 until his untimely death in 1828. The D Major Sonata originally appeared under the guise (via the firm of Diabelli) of “Sonatina,” as an appeal to the Biedermeier demand for accessible pieces for the rising middle class performers. Modeled on the Mozart E Minor Sonata, K. 304, the three-movement sonata maintains a singular, even naïve, charm throughout that proffers a gracious A Minor Andante that finds an agreeable sound in Ibragimova’s 1775 Anselmo Bellosio instrument.

In delicately leaping figures, the A Minor Sonata opens with a passionate rhetoric that Schubert favored in this key, the secondary melody’s C Major sensibility reminiscent of Mozart’s aria Dove sono from Le nozze di Figaro. Suddenly, Schubert modulates to F Major for yet a third theme that exploits jaunty triplets Tiberghien executes on his Steinway with soft persuasion. The latter part of the movement has a tremolo part for keyboard not so far from Der Erlkoenig. Schubert again invokes Mozart in the F Major Andante, with its strong echoes of Mozart’s minuet from his own Sonata in F, K. 377. The D Minor Menuetto has a rustic charm that looks back to Haydn and forward to Brahms. The final Allegro has Beethoven’s sinuous melodic urgency and his occasional explosive power. Our two collaborators make a case that Beethoven might well provide their next musical excursions. The G Minor Sonata asserts more of Schubert’s especial melancholy beauty, here in a key closely associated with Mozart’s tragic Muse. The Andante overtly cites Mozart’s Horn Concerto No. 3 Romanze movement. The wiry sound of Ibragimova’s violin weaves a lovely cantabile quite reminiscent of the sound we knew from Joseph Szigeti. The spirited Menuetto presents an enchanting Trio, the whole somewhat hearkening to Mozart’s great E-flat Symphony, K. 543. Genial, good spirits reign in the final Allegro moderato, spiced with touches from comic opera.

Disc 2 presents Ibragimova in those large duo compositions of which a couple were inspired by Bohemian virtuoso Josef Slavik.  The 1817 Duo Sonata in A Major (pub. 1851) evinces that natural capacity for song that ever defines Schubert’s style. Ibragimova and Tiberghien make a most unaffected case for the work’s poised elegance. The affects of the first movement Allegro moderato chase each other in polished phrases, the antiphonal runs sleek and smooth. The blistering Presto delights in Beethoven’s own capacity for irregular phrase lengths and sudden dynamic shifts. The placid C Major Andantino does gravitate to an unexpected D-flat Major, but its real pathos comes in the last pages that remain ambivalent about major or minor modes. A cantering security marks the Allegro vivace, here played with elastic salon charm. The 1826 Rondeau in B Minor sheds anything like intimacy for a real bravura tour de force, rife with unrelenting forward energy that often suggests another Marche militaire. The G Major episode stands out, having the violin weave all sorts of variants upon the tune while the keyboard imitates an orchestra or a strumming guitar. Ibragimova’s lithe, light hand works a beguiling magic upon this lovely, occasionally explosive song, and Tiberghien’s taut glove never leaves her side.

The massive Fantasy in C Major (1827) made its debut in Vienna in 1828. Like the Wanderer Fantasy for piano, the one-movement work subdivides into the four sections of a large sonata or symphony, a form Liszt and Schoenberg would imitate.  Its tonal ambiguity seems submerged in water at the outset, only to yield to virtuoso riffs from the two principals in the form of a Hungarian Allegretto in A Minor. Schubert set a poem by Rueckert, Sei mir gegruesst (“I hail to thee!”) as his center-piece for the often-lilting variations that occupy the major slow section of the Fantasy. That Ibragimova can play Paganini has its testimony in the first three variants. The last transformation takes us to C Major and a curtailed version of the introductory materials. For his grand finale, Schubert employs another colossal march whose eventual modulation to A-flat Major once more haunts us with Rueckert’s tender sentiment.

As their “encore,” Ibragimova and Tiberghien perform a transcription of the Schubert song so that its haunting beauty might occupy its own precious space.  The recording engineer, Simon Eadon, deserves his own praise for the seamless stream of sound we enjoy in the course of an enchanting recital.

—Gary Lemco




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