Much of this music is deeply poetic, diffuse, difficult to capture for listener and performers alike. Its extended rhapsodies and soliloquies, often extremely beautiful, twist around in amorphous lines that can too easily become meandering and aimless. It demands great virtuosity, but rarely makes a show if it. It also requires a player of consummate technical skill, musical sensitivity and cool maturity to do it justice, and the young Russian violinist Alina Ibragimova possesses all these qualities. With Cédric Tiberghien as a fine and sensitive partner, and with warm and clear recorded sound, she explores the subtle colours and sound worlds of Szymanowski with finesse and quiet authority.
Although only the three Mythes of 1915 conjure specific subjects, most of the works here have the air of being miniature tone pictures, and Ibragimova brings to them a profound sensibility (aided by a confident command of the stratosphere, in which she has to spend a fair amount of time). The Violin Sonata is a more down-to-earth affair, an early work in which Szymanowski had yet to find his later characteristic voice, but which Ibragimova performs with due diligence – it is here mainly, one feels, because it has to be for completism’s sake.
In the composer’s reworking of the three Paganini caprices (nos.20, 21 and 24), the player does get the chance to show off, and Ibragimova shines, although even here a cooler poetic sensibility makes its appearance. But in the more rarefied regions of Szymanowski’s imagination, and above all in the Mythes, she is sublime.
From the June 2009 issue. Subscribe to The Strad or download our digital edition as part of a 30-day free trial.