Alina Ibragimova (violin), Cédric Tiberghien (piano)
Violin Sonata no.1 in A minor Op.105 (1851)
Violin Sonata no.2 in D minor Op.121 (1853)
Wigmore Hall, Monday 15 May 2023 1pm
by Ben Hogwood
It is only in relatively recent years that the violin sonatas of Robert Schumann have begun to get their proper dues. Schumann wrote three such works, sitting at the mature end of his output, and each is shot through with concentrated feeling.
The Violin Sonata no.1 was written in an unfortunate climate, Schumann admitting that it was reflecting a period when he was ‘very angry with certain people’. Certainly its beginning here, with Alina Ibragimova deep in concentration, had a furrowed brow and a darker mood. Yet it was not long in this performance when shafts of sunlight appeared, especially when the harmony moved into the major key. A period of intense reflection was followed by a drive to the finish, propelled by Cédric Tiberghien‘s flowing piano.
The second movement, effectively a slow movement and a scherzo combined, had an appreciably lighter mood with which to begin but cut to a more agitated frame of mind for the scherzo, its contours ideally negotiated by these two fine performers.
The relatively short sonata finished with a busy and determined third movement, digging in but also drawing back to reveal lighter colours and moods. Schumann’s dispute, it seems, was resolved.
The Violin Sonata no.2 is almost twice the length of its predecessor, and is perhaps beginning to reach the status its musical content deserves. To begin with it is an imposing proposition, and Ibragimova brought a granite-like surety to the double stopping, revealing hints of Bach in the responding recitative. In spite of the first movement’s substantial dimensions, it was consistently compelling in this performance, with passionate violin and flowing piano responding really well to each other and maintaining a really satisfying balance. The opening theme coarsed with drama but the broad phrases of the later theme became assertive and ultimately dominant.
The scherzo showed typically energetic Schumann figure, but remained anxious around the edges until its final acclamation. Meanwhile the third movement presented an opportunity for reflection in the plaintive but highly expressive pizzicato with which it began, both performers enjoying the hymn-like nature of the theme even in its loosely strummed form. Gradually the substance of the theme revealed itself, beautifully expressed in natural phrasing, especially in the second variation, with double stopping from the violin.
The finale pushed forward with great urgency, Ibragimova pushing the relentless theme forward while Tiberghien gave a substantial and weighty supporting voice. The two finished each other’s sentences as Schumann’s motifs passed between the instruments, before an emphatic and rapturous finish in the major key.
The musicians were not quite finished, treating us to a beautifully weighted account of Schumann’s song Abendlied as an encore.
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