Violinist Alina Ibragimova’s last Wigmore foray was clever but cold: she’d brilliantly mastered the notes in Bach’s solo sonatas and partitas, but completely failed to find their spirit.
Could her partnership with pianist Cedric Tiberghien – who finds poetry in everything he plays – help her deal more satisfactorily with Schubert? Their programme was an unusual one, with three ‘sonatinas’ written by the teenage Schubert to be played with his brother. They may be Mozart-influenced and simple in construction, but they are distinguished throughout by a graceful limpidity.
As a pianist Schubert naturally lavished more care on the keyboard part, and Tiberghien’s warmth and expressiveness, allied to the bloom on his tone, ensured that one hung on his every note. Ibragimova deployed the immaculately clean intonation for which she is famed, but for the first half hour she short-changed the romance in this music: instead of something gutsy she produced a bleached, oddly viol-like sound. But gradually she loosened up, letting Schubert’s eagerness get into her bow-arm until she was matching her partner’s fire. This recital was being broadcast on Radio 3: if she does a listen-again, she may see where she needs to enrich her palette.
There was no such imbalance between the two musicians who took over the stage later in the day. The way cellist Alexander Chaushian and pianist Ashley Wass launched into Beethoven’s Cello Sonata in G minor suggested two minds with but a single thought, with a wonderfully poised and ruminative introduction. This early work represented Beethoven’s pioneering discovery of the aesthetic potential residing in this hitherto under-rated instrumental combination, and Chaushian and Wass offered a magisterial exploration of the sonata’s dramatic landscape; the Allegro had Jove-like thunder, the Rondo hurtled along.
Their account of Brahms’s Cello Sonata in F was no less idiomatic. This, like the Beethoven, had been written for the composer to perform alongside a top virtuoso, and here we got virtuosity in spades; one could have wished for the opening of the Adagio to have been dreamier, but their approach worked impressively in its own terms. Ending with Grieg’s over-the–top Cello Sonata in A minor, they again demonstrated an ideal symbiosis, but no power on earth could make a silk purse from this sow’s ear of a piece, with its tiresome repetitions and its factitious fury.