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A low-strung star shines bright

Alina Ibragimova, a new member of the violin pantheon

Michael Church | November/December 2015

The world always has a niche ready for the next young female superstar fiddler, but the one now occupying it has got there without any of the usual glamour-puss promotion. Thirty-year-old Alina Ibragimova has broken through the ranks of her contemporaries thanks to a combination of technical brilliance, artistic integrity and the courage to take vertiginous risks. So what if she faltered briefly in the course of her two-part solo recital of Bach’s unaccompanied works for violin at the BBC Proms in London last summer? The way she accomplished that marathon has put her in the fiddlers’ pantheon: her aesthetic mastery of those daunting works is total, and the beauty of her sound was complemented by her mesmerising presence.

She may be British-domiciled, but she’s still Russian through and through. She began playing the violin at age four under the tutelage of her parents (both professional string players), and after a rigorous grounding at Moscow’s Gnesin school, she went to study at the Menuhin school in Surrey. Her chamber-music partners are first-rate, she’s founded her own period-instrument string quartet, and her CDs – the latest of which (on Hyperion) is an Ysaÿe tour de force – regularly set new benchmarks. But her fabled purity of tone is hard-won. “If I spend a day without touching my instrument”, she has said, “I feel uncomfortable.” ~ MICHAEL CHURCH

Alina Ibragimova Mozart Odyssey, Wigmore Hall, London, Oct 27th; CRR Concert Hall, Istanbul, Oct 20th; Konzert Theater Bern, Switzerland, Nov 8th

 

CLASSICAL AT A GLANCE

Morgen und Abend (Royal Opera House, London, Nov 13th). This new opera, by the Austrian composer Georg Friedrich Haas and under the direction of Graham Vick, sounds promising: Haas’s music may be avant garde, but it’s also very accessible. The libretto is based on a novel by Jon Fosse that moves from mundane reality into a world inhabited by ghosts of the past. The actor Klaus Maria Brandauer takes the leading role – there are precedents for this, notably the non-singing Selim, the eloquent hero of “Die Entführung”.

Hommage à Claudio Abbado (Philharmonie de Paris, Nov 9th). This benefit concert for the Institut Curie couldn’t have a better line-up: Martha Argerich is the soloist in Prokofiev’s lovely Piano Concerto No. 3, with the Lucerne Festival Orchestra under the direction of Andris Nelsons; Mahler’s Fifth completes the programme.

Lulu (Metropolitan Opera, New York, broadcast in cinemas, Nov 21st). The visual artist William Kentridge will direct this new production, with drawings and videos representing the opera’s violence. James Levine will conduct, and Marlis Petersen, supported by a very strong cast, will sing the title role.

The Mikado (English National Opera, London, Nov 21st). The great Richard Angas is no longer with us to give his definitive performance in the title role, but Jonathan Miller’s art-deco production (above) remains peerless, both visually and dramatically. Robert Lloyd is now the Mikado, with the inimitable Richard Suart as Ko-Ko and Mary Bevan as Yum-Yum.

Wexford Festival Opera (Wexford, Ireland, from Oct 21st). Specialising in unjustly neglected or rarely performed operas, and situated in a charming port town, this annual festival is worth a visit. This year’s fare consists of Delius’s “Koanga”, Mascagni’s “Guglielmo Ratcliff” and “Le Pré aux clercs” by Ferdinand Hérold. ~ MC

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