Since last October violinist Alina Ibragimova and pianist Cédric Tiberghien have been working their way through Mozart’s violin sonatas at the Wigmore Hall as a part of its Mozart Odyssey series. In this concert they concentrated on six sonatas for violin and piano and the results were stunning. The strength of the performances derived from the fact that the pieces did seem to suit the performers’ natural playing styles, and yet both also knew how to adjust their sounds to bring them out to the full.
The six sonatas included two early works of 1766 and four from the period 1778-88, although they were not played in chronological order. The opening Sonata No. 32 in B flat major K454 of 1784 revealed Ibragimova’s ability to apply a light brushing effect to short notes and phrases, and to bring a far firmer approach to longer ones. Her response at every moment, however, was so in tune with the disparate demands of the piece that the result felt highly coherent. The level of accentuation across each phrase was always perfect, and while Ibragimova is generally known for her restrained use of vibrato, there were sufficient amounts applied here. This revealed how she was responding to the piece rather than forcing it to conform to any particular style of playing.
The evening, however, was as much about the pianist as the violinist and especially so since the programme’s two early sonatas were conceived (as befitting certain tastes and demands of the time) almost as keyboard sonatas with violin accompaniment. The Sonata No. 12 in G major K27 and Sonata No. 16 in B flat major K31 came from a set written between 1763 and 1766, constituting Mozart’s earliest published compositions. In the first of these Tiberghien achieved remarkable levels of clarity, balance and precision while bringing such integrity to his playing that the resulting sound felt warm and engaging. In the Sonata in B flat K31, which came later in the programme, the successive variations with their considerable demands in terms of semiquavers, trills and ‘hand swapping’ were tackled with both a sense of confidence and aplomb.
Before the interval the Violin Sonata No. 17 in C major K296 (1778) revealed the extent to which Ibragimova and Tiberghien work well together, precisely by demonstrating the ability of each to take a back seat when required. The first ‘half’ of the sonata sees the piano as the prime mover with its dominance running through the opening Allegro vivace and into the following Andante sostenuto. In the second half of that latter movement, however, Ibragimova’s bowing was possessed of an uplifting, almost ethereal, beauty, while the ideas in the final movement were explored with highly astute understanding of their relationship to each other.
Ibragimova and Tiberghien’s collaborative approach was also much in evidence in their performance of Mozart’s Violin Sonata No. 36 in F major K547 (1788) which, like the Piano Sonata No. 16 in C major K545 was written ‘for beginners’. While the piano is for the most part the dominant instrument, Ibragimova played her role to the full by showing rhythmic awareness, and applying highly appropriate levels of pressure to each and every bow stroke. The Violin Sonata No. 23 in D major K306 (1778) that closed the programme also provided a demonstration in just how thrilling the dialogue, conversation and exchange between violin and piano in a Mozart sonata can be.
Further details of Wigmore Hall concerts can be found at wigmore-hall.org.uk.