Jonathan Blumhofer
The Arts Fuse, USA
July 2020

Ready for some flawless Shostakovich? If so, check out Alina Ibragimova’s new recording of the two Shostakovich violin concertos with the State Symphony Orchestra of Russia 'Evgeny Svetlanov' and Vladimir Jurowski: it’s as searing a recording as they come.

In the First Concerto, the Nocturne is brilliantly sculpted; the Scherzo dazzlingly nimble; the Passacaglia a picture of hellish intensity; and the finale a raging, fiery dance. What allows the whole enterprise to take flight is the exceptional attention to musical details Ibragimova and the orchestra demonstrate. Not only are the technical elements—dynamics, articulations, balances, and the rest—perfectly matched between them, but Ibragimova and Jurowski have a feeling for this Concerto’s structure and content that, simply put, feels perfectly right.

As a result, there’s a strong sense of progression through the piece. The Scherzo seems to accumulate weight and grit as it proceeds yet, by the time the kinetic final peroration arrives, it flies with a lightness and resilience that is astonishing. Likewise, the third movement runs the gamut from the sparest of melodic wisps to inferno-like ferocity. The whole performance culminates in a staggering account of the Concerto’s cadenza: hard-hitting, no-nonsense, savage.

If anything, the lesser-known Second Concerto fares even better. True, it’s a more austere piece, slightly shorter, darker, calling for a smaller, less colorful orchestra. But, in Ibragimova’s hands, the piece sings. Indeed, every note counts. The first movement is taut and gripping, marked by a terrific sense of the music’s architecture from violinist and conductor. The central Adagio soars with pure-toned expression, while the finale dances crisply and defiantly.

To be sure, there’s nothing easy about either of these pieces—they visit some pretty bleak places—yet they’ve rarely been better served on disc than they are here.

The Arts Fuse, USA