Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Violin Concerto in a minor, BWV1041 [12:17]
Violin Concerto in E, BWV1042 [14:55]
Violin Concerto in A, BWV1055R [13:11]
Violin Concerto in g minor, BWV1056R [9:01]
Violin Concerto in d minor, BWV1052R [19:27]
Alina Ibragimova (violin)
rec. Henry Wood Hall, London, 8-10 August, 2014. DDD.
HYPERION CDA68068 [68:51]
Reviewed as 24-bit download from hyperion-records.co.uk,
with pdf booklet. Also available in mp3 and 16-bit and on CD.
Alina Ibragimova already has a very fine recording
of the reconstructed Concerto for violin and oboe, BWV1060R, to her
credit (with Alexei Ogrintchouk (oboe), together with other reconstructed
Bach oboe concertos, BIS-SACD-1769 – review).
She has also recorded the solo violin sonatas and partitas for Hyperion
(CDA67691/2) and she wowed the 2015 Proms audience with these solo pieces
and appeared there in a matinée with Apollo’s Fire in BWV1042 (see below).
Now she offers the two secure Bach violin concertos together with some
credible reconstructions, from the keyboard concertos Nos. 1, 4 and
5. Though at least two of these were probably intended originally for
the oboe or oboe d’amore, let me say at the outset that I enjoyed her
recordings of all the concertos very much. Were there not such very
strong competition I might well have made this a Recording of the Month.
The nearest competition for this programme comes from Giuliano Carmignola
and Concerto Köln, a recording which Michael Cookson thought stunning
and in a class of its own (with the two-violin concerto, BWV1043, in
place of BWV1055, DG Archiv 4792695 – review).
I liked that Carmignola recording too (Download
News 2015/2) and though I tried a number of movements where I thought
either he or Ibragimova might have the upper hand, in the final analysis
it’s impossible to plump for one or the other.
Ibragimova sounds a little less hectic at times than Carmignola,
but their tempi are not hugely different and he never overdoes what
DG describe as Bach all’ Italiana. She actually takes the allegro
assai finale of BWV1042 ten seconds faster even than he does, which
is not to say that I thought either of them unduly fast here or elsewhere.
Reviewing her Proms performance of that concerto, with Apollo’s Fire,
Claire Seymour thought it ‘a … natural fit for Ibragimova’s temperament,
[giving] … an unwaveringly tasteful and charming performance. The Affetuoso in
particular struck a heart-chord: playing without vibrato … the violinist
dared to withdraw her sound to the very barest sliver of silver, which
made the resurgence of warmth in the dancing triplets of the Allegro
assai even more refreshing.’ (review).
Ibragimova sounds fairly forward on Hyperion, so that ‘barest sliver’
comes over a little louder than seems to have been the case in the flesh,
but her playing in the slow movement remains very sensitive indeed and
the finale is just as refreshing as it was live. Carmignola takes almost
a minute longer over the slow movement of BWV1042 without ever sounding
as if he is milking the sentiment unduly and though he takes a few second
longer over the finale, he also captures the dancing quality of that
The same high standard is maintained in the a-minor concerto, BWV1041.
I can’t claim to have heard all the available versions – there are over
140 in the current UK catalogue – but this is without question one of
the best of the many recordings of this work that I do know.
Nor is there anything to choose between the two accompanying ensembles,
Arcangelo and Concerto Köln, including their sizes: seven violins, two
violas and cellos, etc., each. Both recordings come with informative
booklets, though Hyperion perhaps has the advantage in that respect.
The 24/96 download to which I listened produces a very natural sound
but the CD and the 16-bit should also sound fine. On the day when I
downloaded this album and one other my ISP provider seems to have thrown
some gremlins into the works. Two tracks, together with one from the
other recording, emerged with small but annoying glitches: the answer
is to download the offending tracks again individually, carefully rename
them as per the offenders and delete the originals.
With two very fine baroque violinists in Carmignola and Ibragimova offering
very similar programmes, the slight difference in programming could
be a decisive factor. If your collection is lacking a version of the
two-violin concerto, BWV1043, that may give Carmignola, with Mayumi
Hirasaki as second violin, the advantage. If, however, you already
have a good recording of the double concerto, BWV1055 sounds very convincing
in this very well performed reconstruction.