For their gift concert for subscribers & donors, San Francisco Performances presented a solo violin recital by young Russian violinist Alina Ibragimova. The program notes accurately described this as a "program of extraordinarily difficult music for unaccompanied violin by composers whose last name begins with B." The program was indeed uncompromising. Berio's Sequenza VIII is a virtuosic & discomfiting piece, featuring repeated notes, dissonant double-stops & many technical challenges. Ms. Ibragimova played with an inner fierceness & a look of intense focus. Her bow arm barely seemed to move when she played tremolo runs that were unbelievably fast, & yet every note was perfectly distinct. The audience was impressively quiet for the very soft ending, played with a heavy mute.
Though she had the music for the Berio spread out on 2 music stands, Ms. Ibragimova played the rest of her recital from memory. She used almost no vibrato for the Bach Partita in D Minor, which felt serious & personal. The Giga, played with short, taut strokes, went incredibly fast. Ms. Ibragimova's sound is dark & slightly gritty, & her instrument sounds like it is under extreme tension. I like her seemingly light bow grip & her level right wrist. Passages in which the bow rocks across the strings had a dense texture. The Ciaccona's final double-stop had a strange, almost raspy, timbre.
Ms. Ibragimova was also sparing with vibrato in Biber's Passacaglia, which sounded appropriately mournful & attenuated. The Bartok solo sonata was even more aggressive than the opening Berio, & it made me feel anxious. The 1st movement had harsh contrasts, & the 2nd movement was often brutal. Ms. Ibragimova seemed to be ripping the strings off the violin during the pizzicato. Since she had no pockets, she placed her mute on the floor until the 3rd movement. When she had it on, the violin made buzzing, insect-like noises. The audience was quiet & polite for the entire concert, & many stood at the end, though the applause quickly died down after Ms. Ibragimova's 2nd bow.
§ Alina Ibragimova, violin
BERIO: Sequenza VIII
J.S. BACH: Partita No. 2 in D minor, BWV 1004
VON BIBER: Passacaglia in G minor, from the Mystery (Rosary) Sonatas
BARTÓK: Sonata for Solo Violin
San Francisco Performances
Annual Gift Concert
Monday, April 16, 8pm