A Fine Partnership in Schubert

United KingdomUnited Kingdom Schubert: Alina Ibragimova (violin); Cédric Tiberghien (piano). Wigmore Hall, London, 31.1.2013 (CC)

Rondo in B minor, D895
Violin Sonata (Duo) in A, D574
Sei mir gegrüsst, D741
Nacht und Träume, D827
Fantasy in C, D934

Part of the Wigmore’s Schubert celebration, “An die Musik”, this concert afforded a rare opportunity to hear a full concert of works for violin and piano by Schubert, and in the hands of two of the finest young artists in front of the public today to boot. Schubert was born 31 January, 1797, and so it was two hundred years later exactly that Ibragimova and Tiberghien took to the stage.

The Rondo in B minor, D895, was composed in 1826 (it was also known as Rondeau brillant). This is one of only two chamber works Schubert saw in publication, the other being the String Quartet, D804. It is a remarkably wide-ranging work, taking in drama – the opening, well projected by both artists – and tenderness. The opening melody, so typically Schubertian in its breadth and natural breath, found Ibragimova more at home than Tiberghien, more inside the music. The piece is technically challenging for the violinist, and Ibragimova showed her mettle in taking it all in her stride. True chamber music was yet to arrive in performance terms – that came later – but it was good to hear this little-played work nonetheless.

Like the Rondo, the Duo D574 of 1817 was written for the violinist Josef Slavík. Rapport was heightened here, and interestingly there was something of a role reversal: here it was Tiberghien who showed more musicianly character. As in the Rondo, Ibragimova eschewed extensive vibrato, almost dispensing with it at times. Her lean sound, on an Anselmo Bellosio violin of around 1775, seemed entirely apposite. The piece is actually quite Beethovenian in places, and shows a robust core. There were some magical moments, like the move towards stasis in the Andantino third section. Yet the finale lacked the final inch of charm that had so characterised the exchanges of the first movement.

It was a lovely idea to present two Schubert songs linked to the D934 Fantasy. Ibragimova played the vocal line charmingly in both instances; both perhaps fell short of the mark though in that the first found Tiberghien a little literal, while he did not quite set the nocturnal scene for the second. A shame, as Ibragimova’s blanched tone for Nacht und Träume was remarkably effective. The mood continued into the beautiful opening tremolandi by Tiberghien that opened D934, adorned by superb left-hand trills, characterful staccati and pearly scales, all around Ibragimova’s silken legato line. This is where it all clicked into place. No player was more attuned to the Schubertian ethos than the other here, and the result was magnificent. Poignancy vied with sheer joy in life itself. There was an encore, but it seemed sacrilege to introduce another composer, even if that composer was Bach.

It is not every day that the page turner gets a mention in a review, but there’s a first time for everything, and he even made the Evening Standard. Just before the Fantasy a mobile went off. Will we ever get used to it? But this is certainly the first time I have seen a mobile on stage go off. The page turner rose, left his mobile backstage and returned, ashen. At least Ibragimova found it amusing.

Colin Clarke