Ibragimova Plays First Rate Shostakovich Concertos

Review by: David Hurwitz


Artistic Quality: 9

Sound Quality: 9

Alina Ibragimova has the measure of this music, no doubt about it. I can see some listeners who might prefer a beefier basic timbre in the style of Oistrakh, with a less penetrating vibrato on top, but that is a matter of personal taste. By any standard Ibragimova’s playing of these two concerts is superb. In the First, she conveys the mysterious atmosphere of the opening Nocturne at an ideally flowing tempo. Her Scherzo is brilliant from start to finish, and never turns heavy as it proceeds. The third movement passacaglia is noble, the ensuing cadenza probing and dazzling by turns, with the finale sardonically high-spirited.

I do have one reservation, however. The story goes that Shostakovich originally had the violin play the finale’s opening but substituted the full orchestra at Oistrakh’s request–he wanted a brief rest before playing again after the very tiring cadenza. This performance restores the original conception, but as so often, I feel this second-guessing the composer is a mistake. The reason to leave the full orchestral statement of the finale’s main them is not just to give the soloist a break; the pause is too brief for it to make a significant difference. No, the real reason is contrast–to give the orchestra something to do and the audience a major change of color after some five or six minutes of solo violin. The revision is kinder to the listener, and with all due respect to Ms. Ibragimova, we matter more than she does.

As for the Second Concerto, the stepchild of the two works, there has never been a finer performance. The long opening Moderato has a rare cogency and purpose. Indeed, the entire work hangs together with an organic inevitability that owes as much to the superb accompaniment provided by Vladimir Jurowski and his excellent Russian orchestra (with a name far longer than it has any right to be). The finale is especially sharp and brilliant. There are no textual issues here: just great playing and conducting. Indeed, although I enjoyed the First Concerto enormously, I suspect that I will return to this disc even more frequently for the Second. Terrific, well-balanced engineering caps an excellent release by any measure.

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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: No. 1: Oistrakh/Mitropoulos (Sony); No. 2: This One

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