Review / Fiery demon with the touch of a butterfly

Music / “Death and the Maiden”, Alina Ibragimova and the Australian Chamber Orchestra. At Llewellyn Concert Hall, March 17. Reviewed by ROB KENNEDY

Russian violin sensation Alina Ibragimova,.

COMPLEX and intertwined emotions from a range of classical and contemporary music were at full tilt in this concert titled “Death and the Maiden”.

Russian violin sensation Alina Ibragimova, who is also guest director of the Australian Chamber Orchestra (ACO), has been deeply involved in music all her life; at five she began music college in Moscow. Her mother is professor of violin at the Yehudi Menuhin School in Surrey, England, and her father principal emeritus double bass with the London Symphony Orchestra, and she is married to classical music critic Tom Service.

The unmistakable sound of Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings” sits forefront of much of the string orchestra repertoire. What doesn’t it convey and what further can be said about its subtle beauty, except that it opened this concert with an innate intensity.

Mozart’s “Adagio and Fugue in C minor” K.546 was a brilliant pairing with the Barber adagio and it felt like a natural flow on to this dark and melancholy work. The opening adagio with its rich complexity performed with a dynamic precision became even more involved in the fugue.

The “Concerto funebre” by German composer Karl Amadeus Hartmann cascaded through a wide range of expressions and varying articulations for every instrument. The profound, thick sonorities in the opening two movements were felt deep within the body.

The ACO don’t hesitate long between movements, and that adds a sparkling vibrancy to their overall performance. The allegro, a robust and fiery piece added an immense drive and pace to this highly colourful composition. But, the final movement, a choral, added layers of complexity and stirring emotions to this excellent piece.

“Silouan’s Song” by Arvo Pärt who writes some of the most sublime, quiet and moving string music of today and perhaps any period in history came after the interval. This religious piece, with full bar and longer rests, creates a hypnotic allusion and it is so intimate that it may best be heard through headphones.

Schubert’s “Death and the Maiden” arranged from string quartet to string orchestra by Richard Tognetti, begins with fire and soon grows into a storm of music that has wowed audiences for almost 200 years. And, I’m sure, with Alina Ibragimova who can make the quietest passage stand out, it has never sounded better.

For a time in the scherzo, the third movement it went back to its original setting of a quartet, and that added a unique touch of colour against the full contingent of 17 players. The final movement’s fire is legendary, and the whole ensemble made it sound fresh and alive. At its end, it was met with gasps and people calling for more, but they didn’t get any.

Throughout each piece, Alina Ibragimova moves around the stage like she owns it, and plays like a fiery demon with the touch of a butterfly.

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