The Russian-British violinist Alina Ibragimova, versatile, virtuosic and astute in every kind of repertoire (listen to her play Bach), has established an ideal partnership with the State Academic Symphony Orchestra of Russia 'Evgeny Svetlanov' and the conductor Vladimir Jurowski. In musical perception and integrity to the score, you couldn’t find a better match. Their Shostakovich Violin Concertos capture every twist and subtlety, as well as letting rip in the angry outbursts.
Shostakovich referred to his Violin Concerto No 1 in A minor, begun in 1947 in the aftermath of the second world war but not premiered until 1955, as a symphony for violin and orchestra. What did he mean? The four movements, one more than usual, have a restless ambition and grandeur. The moods of each don’t correspond to any concerto norm. Opening with a slow, painfully melancholic Nocturne, the work plunges into reflection where we might expect display. A crazed, sardonic Scherzo follows, then a sombre Passacaglia leading to a vast solo cadenza. The finale is a dark 'Burlesque', a breathless, screeching car chase between soloist and orchestra.
Shostakovich’s Violin Concerto No 2 (1967), shorter and more regular in shape, pivots around a prolonged, introverted and emotional slow movement: hush and concentration are of the essence. Never easy listening, but who expects that of this composer, or these performers, who give their brilliant best.