Live review: Alina Ibragimova with the TSO

Colours of the East

BY STEPHANIE ESLAKE

 

Colours of the East
Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, Marko Letonja (conductor), Alina Ibragimova (violin)
Federation Concert Hall, August 4

 

What’d you miss?

  • A violin concerto as psychotic as Rosamund Pike in Gone Girl
  • Listeners chuckling at brass bits
  • An endearing Scheherazade

 

“Have you seen Gone Girl?” my dad asks as we break for interval in the Federation Concert Hall. “She was Rosamund Pike.”

I knew exactly what he meant. His description had captured the dynamism of Russian violinist Alina Ibragimova – at once magnetic and psychotic as she performed Bartok’s Violin Concerto No. 2 with the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra. It was the type of performance that rattles you to the core – one with a fearlessness you’d have been unlikely to forget.

The concert was Colours of the East. Before Ibragimova stepped on stage, we heard a short work: Sculthorpe’s Sun Music II, in which the Australian composer had found influence in Balinese traditions.

After extended solos of the percussion section, which exuded bold attitude and rhythmic drive, the brass section pumped out a few seemingly random wafts of sound – to which I noticed a few shoulders started convulsing in the rows around me. I confess to you I swallowed back a chuckle myself – and that’s okay. To feel comfortable engaging in any element of a work, even one which a listener may find comical, can only be a positive thing.

Startling strings were in contrast to the spacious sections, and the overall primitivism of the piece was a solid programmatic match to the other works of the night; the next of which was Bartok’s concerto.

Ibragimova walked on stage in a deep green dress – a fitting match for the Tasmanian wilderness surrounding the city of her performance. Her opening movement was virtuosic and wild, with hollow low tones and silky high tones. Her playing revealed incredible levels of versatility and her presence was explosive.

Harps and brass added a touch of warmth; while the second movement was glowing and romantic. In the third, Ibragimova was occasionally washed under the orchestra; a body which swooped the work away in the finale.

After interval, we heard a heavy start to Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade. Rhythmic unison caused occasional synchronisation issues within the strings, but it wasn’t too much of a worry. The second movement brought concertmaster Emma McGrath to the fore – her sound sweet and endearing, and not at all overshadowed by our evening’s headline soloist.

For a moment, however, I was distracted by something glistening on stage: the sparkle of an ornament on a violinist’s shoe! As the pattern goes, my eyes continued to scan the stage floor and I was struck with the realisation that all women seemed to be wearing black stockings under their pants! I was not aware until this point that, as music-makers and concertgoers of the 21st Century, we are simply so far gone that we’re too posh to catch a glimpse of an ankle or two.

But this mental interjection lasted not long – and I was quickly brought back to the present by the spine-tingling, soaring theme of brass over orchestra. The TSO sunk into a truly wondrous ending to this work and the night.

 


Image supplied. Credit: Eva Vermandel.

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