Bach Solo Violin Sonatas and Partitas
Alina Ibragimova’s previous recordings for Hyperion have been of 20th-century music – impressive accounts of Szymanowski, Roslavets and Hartmann. Her Bach comes as something of a revelation. The finesse we’ve previously admired in her playing is here combined with thoughtful stylistic awareness (she’s studied Baroque violin with Adrian Butterfield) and a distinctive, individual approach. She plays with very little vibrato, often none at all, so that variations in volume and colour all come from the bow, allowing her to present the musical shapes in a clear yet unemphatic way. She eschews the usual violinistic attempts, through big tone and heavy emphasis, to underline the grandeur of Bach’s designs; the Chaconne ends quietly, and the peroration of the Fugue in the Third Sonata, whose exposition returns to round the movement off, is achieved through a slight broadening of the tempo.
Ibragimova’s playing is uncommonly neat, with precise fingerwork and relaxed management of the bow; the virtuoso finale of the Third Sonata sparkles effortlessly while remaining for the most part at a piano dynamic. She plays unequal quavers in the Third Partita’s Minuet as naturally as if she’d grown up in the 18th century. And finally, all her stylishness and technical refinement is at the service of an ingrained understanding of the music; she makes us feel where the points of harmonic tension and emphasis are, and she’s able to do it without distorting the surface of the music.
Hearing this set, some listeners may miss the more vigorous, forceful character of Christian Tetzlaff’s recording, or long for the warmer tone and more sustained playing of Julia Fischer. But I hope these airy, poised, deeply felt performances find wide appreciation.