Alina Ibragimova & Cedric Tiberghien reviewed in The West Australian

Schumann races ahead with young stars
William Yeoman, The West Australian

Beethoven might have been the best composer in this Musica Viva program by Russian violinist Alina Ibragimova and French pianist Cedric Tiberghien but it’s the best horse on the day that wins. In this case it was Schumann who, though appearing last on the program, raced ahead to take an unassailable lead with the second of his three violin sonatas, thanks largely to a fastidious but impassioned performance by these two bright young things of the classical music world.

Beethoven’s Violin Sonata no 10 (1812) was his last contribution to the genre, and almost minimalist in comparison with the more famous Kreutzer Sonata. But its first movement especially is rich in melodic and harmonic invention. As a whole, it made an ideal overture, even if Ibragimova and Tiberghien underplayed Beethoven’s more muscular gestures.

Leos Janacek’s Russian flavoured Violin Sonata (1914) also displays great economy of writing, the extravagance of the gorgeous Balada notwithstanding. But the emotional core of the work is the famous last movement, in which the violin spits a dark, vicious little motif at the piano’s dreamy Dumka (a musical genre of Ukranian origin).

Here the two musicians displayed the same sense of theatre and emotional engagement that also characterised the performance of the next work, Australian composer Paul Stanhopes Agnus Dei (After the Fire). Stanhope is both master melodist and colourist, and these qualities come to the fore in this response to the Victorian bushfires, not least in the striking use of timbre – witness the searing overtones generated by directly scraping the piano strings.

But it was in Schumann’s Violin Sonata no 2 (1851) that Ibragimova and Tiberghien seemed most at ease. This was a performance not merely to savour but to follow the performers’ lead and throw oneself into body and soul. From the stormy conversations of the first movement through the Mendelssohnian Scherzo and the lyrical, intimate atmosphere of the third to the triumphant finale, marked “Agitated”, the musical duo incised a clean, sharp line of almost painful intensity through the score – the burr being the spiritual abandon that is synonymous with transcendence.

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