The Strad Issue: January 2012
Description: A more-than-welcome addition to a crowded discography
Musicians: Alina Ibragimova (violin) Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment/Vladimir Jurowski
Composer: Mendelssohn

Does the world really need another recording of Mendelssohn’s E minor Violin Concerto? Well, yes, when it’s as good as this, a potent mix of beauty, energy and sensibility. Essentially, the performers here just do what the composer asks for, and their close attention to detail is commendable. Accents appear where marked: if a piano phrase should be repeated pianissimo, then it is. It is strange how often this is not the case. Alina Ibragimova’s playing is strong, supple and compelling. She employs a degree of rhythmic freedom here and there, but never indulgently so. The care and intelligence of her phrasing show both in melody and in the shaping and phrasing of her passagework. She performs the second-movement melody with grace and warmth, but also with a bewitching simplicity, and elegance threads through the exhilarating helter-skelter of the finale.

The D minor Concerto, written when Mendelssohn was 13, requires different sensibilities. Ibragimova brings to it a nicely judged stylistic balance, early 19th century with elements of early Classical, as Mendelssohn works his way through older models. Soloist and orchestra are in their element here, the performances poised and bold, tinged with urbane sentiment. The orchestral playing throughout, also encompassing a vivid Hebrides Overture, is superb, as is the recorded sound.