Alina Ibragimova & Steven Osborne – Prokofiev: Violin Sonatas; Five Melodies (2014)
FLAC (tracks) 24-bit/96 kHz | Time – 60:43 minutes | 979 MB | Genre: Classical
Studio Master, Official Digital Download – Source: hyperion-records | Digital Booklet | © Hyperion Records

Hyperion is delighted to present a special collaboration already an extraordinary force on the concert platform in its first appearance on record. Alina Ibragimova and Steven Osborne are musicians of searing, uncompromising intelligence and intense feeling. In his works for the violin, Prokofiev produced some of his most personal and expressive music. Both of his Violin Sonatas were written for David Oistrakh. The first was begun against the backdrop of Stalin’s Great Terror, and one senses that he drew his inspiration from the uncharacteristically dark wells of fear, despair and bereavement which were the lot of Prokofiev and his contemporaries. The Violin Sonata No.2 is of a very different character generally sunny and carefree, though still with occasional fleeting shadows. In its original form it was a Flute Sonata, Op 94, which Prokofiev had completed in 1943. At David Oistrakh’s suggestion and with his assistance, Prokofiev transcribed the work.

From the austere opening bars of the First Violin Sonata, one of Prokofiev’s towering masterpieces, it’s clear that this violin-and-piano duo is capable of the subtlest interplay. Steven Osborne is the lion, or the demon, that needs taming by Alina Ibragimova’s fiddler, dancing—sometimes ever so frailly—on the volcano. There are revelations in the outer movements: never have I heard the violin’s tentative B minor melodising as so much the heart of the preludial Andante assai—it’s equal in effect to what Prokofiev described as the ‘wind in the graveyard’ rushings which appear at the end of that movement and return so strikingly at the end of the work—and the way the scherzo’s abrasive insistence returns in the piano bass of the finale is truly hair-raising.

The slow movement is more than ever one of those ‘voices that will not be drowned’ from beyond the grave—again, the partnership is spellbinding—and if the violin seems weaker than her pianist in the spine-tingling Allegro brusco scherzo, I wonder if that’s not deliberate. The string voice is much fuller in the more straightforward melodies of the Second Sonata. Osborne is terrific in the clumsy-child piano octaves of the finale, and the spirit here is unconstrained by pity or terror. There’s a fine glide into the dream-world of the Hive Melodies transcribed from the soprano Songs without Words, where only the spiky antics of the scherzando fourth melody break the reverie, though be warned—there isn’t much of a break between the tragic dying fall of the First Sonata and the first of the Op 35 sequence.

01 – Violin Sonata No 1 in F minor, Op 80 – 1: Andante assai
02 – Violin Sonata No 1 in F minor, Op 80 – 2: Allegro brusco
03 – Violin Sonata No 1 in F minor, Op 80 – 3: Andante
04 – Violin Sonata No 1 in F minor, Op 80 – 4: Allegrissimo
05 – Five Melodies, Op 35bis – 1: Andante
06 – Five Melodies, Op 35bis – 2: Lento, ma non troppo
07 – Five Melodies, Op 35bis – 3: Animato, ma non allegro
08 – Five Melodies, Op 35bis – 4: Allegretto leggero e scherzando
09 – Five Melodies, Op 35bis – 5: Andante non troppo
10 – Violin Sonata No 2 in D major, Op 94bis – 1: Moderato
11 – Violin Sonata No 2 in D major, Op 94bis – 2: Scherzo: Presto
12 – Violin Sonata No 2 in D major, Op 94bis – 3: Andante
13 – Violin Sonata No 2 in D major, Op 94bis – 4: Allegro con brio

Produced by Andrew Keener. Engineered by Simon Eadon.
Recorded in July 2013 at Henry Wood Hall, London, United Kingdom.

Alina Ibragimova – violin
Steven Osborne – piano