Mendelssohn Violin Concertos

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COMPOSERS: Felix Mendelssohn
LABELS: Hyperion
ALBUM TITLE: Mendelssohn Violin Concertos
WORKS: Violin Concertos in E minor and D minor; The Hebrides
PERFORMER: Alina Ibragimova (violin); Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment/Vladimir Jurowski


As a fiddler himself, Mendelssohn was alive to the delights offered by different modes of bowing, and in both concertos here Alina Ibragimova moves effortlessly from one to another, most tellingly at one point in the first movement of the E minor from a warm legato to a ghostly spiccato. It’s all part of the vivid life she injects into everything she does, whether into the pseudo-Baroque angularity of the first movement of the early D minor Concerto, or in keeping the Andante of its successor moving onwards purposefully, but without haste.

One thing, though, puzzles me: what was the thinking behind teaming together a soloist who uses vibrato, albeit tastefully, and a string band who don’t? Not that I necessarily object to the result – Ibragimova frequently soothes what I might call the fevered glassiness of the violin section (which also, for my taste, obtrudes unduly in the more forthright moments of The Hebrides) and this apportioning of roles has its charms. In general balance is good, with two tiny exceptions: the soloist’s final three-octave E major upward arpeggio is inaudible – a pity, since it fulfils the implications of the finale’s opening tune – and in bars three and four of The Hebrides the bassoon and viola tune is momentarily obscured by the cello countersubject.

Overall, Ibragimova’s sensitive playing wins the day, with some superlative quiet moments and at all times a loyal adherence to the composer’s markings and a sure sense of the music’s phrasing and architecture.


Roger Nichols