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Prom 21: Alina Ibragimova plays Bach (II) | reviews, news & interviews

Prom 21: Alina Ibragimova plays Bach (II)

Prom 21: Alina Ibragimova plays Bach (II)

A dramatic close to this first cycle of solo Bach

Alina Ibragimova: Baroque authenticity without affectation or excess

While Friday night’s triptych of solo Bach began and ended in a sombre, contemplative place, the arc created for the second sequence by pairing the final sonata for solo violin with the second and third partitas is altogether more dramatic. In Ibragimova’s ordering we opened with the monolithic D minor Partita, warming through the C major Sonata before ending joyfully with the E major Partita.

As a complete cycle of six works it makes sense, treating the D minor, with its weighty Chaconne, as the central point of climax. In terms of performance, however, it left Ibragimova faced with the task of opening this second concert with a technical and emotional marathon. The contrast between the slightly rattled start we heard to this partita and the playful control Ibragimova had found by the closing work set me wondering whether the violinist might not have done better to work up to the D minor, treating it as an elegiac finish instead.

The start of the Third Sonata was one of the evening’s most exquisite moments

Unsettled by a false start (whether due to memory loss or another issue was unclear), Ibragimova never quite found her feet in this first partita. The unapologetic simplicity and raw edges of last night were still there, but added to them was some uncertainty of intonation and a certain amount of scrappiness in the details, with the violinist showing her technical working.

It says a lot about Ibragimova and her sense of large-scale structure that this didn’t detract from the overall drama, minutely calibrated from the unassuming delicacy of the opening Allemanda through the speed of the Giga, losing its phrasing just occasionally in breathless pace, before arriving at the mercurial Chaconne. Dispatching the movement’s chordal passages with no vibrato, refusing to apologise or conceal, Ibragimova made her technique work for the movement, matching its emotional bleakness with a textural clarity that celebrated rather than avoided the work’s harshnesses.

From here on things settled, and the start of the Third Sonata was one of the evening’s most exquisite moments – mossy-soft and feathery, a gossamer veil over the grief and anger of the Chaconne that had gone before. The Largo shared its inward intimacy, confessional to a degree we’d not yet heard, playing the straight man to the sudden wit of the closing Allegro assai. In ordering the works this way, Ibragimova deferred all humour till the last possible moment, and after so much solemnity it seemed impossible that she should discover such joy. But the musical smile continued to play around the music right through the Third Partita, which saw the violinist at her absolute best.

Absolutely in control, poised but with mischief in mind, Ibragimova shaped this final work with loving attention to detail. Dance, sublimated for so much of the darker works, returned to the fore, romping even through the fugue. As the end to such a massive cycle it was all the celebration you could wish – an ecstatic passing of the baton to Schiff and Ma, who will continue the Proms’ sequence of solo Bach later in the season. They may find more gloss, more stature to this repertoire than Ibragimova, but it would be hard to imagine them finding much more heart, or offering more truthful music-making.

Read theartsdesk's reviews of other concerts from the BBC Proms

As the end to such a massive cycle it was all the celebration you could wish

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Average: 4 (1 vote)

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