Seen and Heard Concert Review
Sibelius : Violin Concerto in D minor Op 47 , Kullervo Symphony Op7. Alina Ibragimova (vln) Päivi Nisula (sop) Raimo Laukka (bar) YL Helsinki Men's Chorus, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra / Osmo Vänskä (conductor) Symphony Hall, Birmingham, 17.11.2006 (BK)
Arriving for a concert where there is a subsititute soloist is often a disappointment, but not so in the case of the 21 year old Russian violinist Alina Ibragimova. Standing in for the indisposed Reka Szilvay at Symphony Hall on Friday, she played the Sibelius concerto as well as anyone I can remember from recent years: so well in fact that I was reminded of Joshua Bell's performance at the Lahti Sibelius Festival in 2002, once again with Osmo Vänskä conducting.
Already a BBC New Generation Artist and winner of both the 1999 Royal Philharmonic Society Emily Anderson Prize, and the 2002 London Symphony Orchestra Music Scholarship, Ms Ibragimova studies with Christian Tetzlaff and Gordan Nikolitch. With a huge, golden tone flowing from her borrowed Guanerius, it was obvious from the outset that this remarkable young woman will be someone to listen out for in the future. Her nearly flawless technique (not quite perfect as yet in some of the multi-stopped passages of this difficult concerto) and effortlessly natural style of playing in lyrical episodes, high harmonics and pyrotechnics equally, held the audience enraptured for the concerto's half-hour duration. Everything she did felt unforced, apparently spontaneous and perfectly in keeping with the fire and ice of this quintessentially Nordic concerto. The orchestra joined with the audience in enthusiastic and unusually prolonged applause : a wholly appropriate tribute to an exceptional talent.
Quite what it is about
Kullervo that caused Sibelius to forbid its performance
during his lifetime has always been something of a mystery
to me. Yes, structurally it's not quite a symphony except
in a Mahlerian sense, and yes too it has overtones of
Tchaikovsky and even Bruckner with which a young composer
finding his individuality might naturally be dissatisfied.
But it remains wholly Finnish in character and
much of it sings with precisely the same spirit as the
later tone poems and symphonies. In a sense, this music
is Finland - influenced by neighbours and other
cultures as it has been constantly throughout its history
- but firmly and deeply rooted in the harshness and beauty
of its landscape and alertly alive (as very few other
places are) to the value of its distinctive identity.
The Finnish word Sisu means grit, or determination
in dealing with adversity, and this music has literally
vast amounts of that.
All in all this was a wonderful evening of music-making, distinguished by an abundance of exceptional artistry. Such a pity then that Symphony Hall was less than two-thirds full.
The YL Helsinki Men's Chorus web site is here.