Northern lights up latest Britten Sinfonia visit

Alina Ibragimova

Alina Ibragimova - Credit: Archant

The Britten Sinfonia will be looking north for their inspiration in their latest Norwich concert Baltic Night and welcome back exciting, dynamic soloist Alina Ibragimova. SIMON PARKIN reports.

East Anglia may be separated from the Europe's northern coastline by the North Sea but we have much more in common with its oft overlooked culture than with that of southern Europe and the Mediterranean — however much we may crave the climate and cuisine.

The Britten Sinfonia will be shining a light on the north at their latest concert at Norwich Theatre Royal, but will showcase one of Europe's most vigorous violinists, a professional chorus and a programme comprised of contemporary and classic works from the Baltic islands.

This Sunday's concert will see the ensemble celebrate music from Estonia, Latvia and beyond in a diverse line-up combining new works with old masterpieces.

The programme will begin with Viderunt omnes by the pre-medieval European born composer Pérotin, followed by Bach's Violin Concerto No.1 in A minor. The second half features a world premiere by Latvian composer ?riks Ešenvalds, who has written a unique piece especially for the Britten Sinfonia.

The series will close with a violin concerto by Estonian composer P?teris Vasks called Distant Light, who received the Latvian Grand Music Award in 1997.

For the concert the Sinfonia will play alongside one of the most exciting, dynamic soloist performing at the moment. Alina Ibragimova has won a whole host of awards from the Young British Performer Classical BRIT award in 2009 to the Royal Philharmonic Society Young Artist Award 2010.

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Born in Russia but having been resident in the UK since the age of 10, after her father Rinat Ibragimov moved to take over the role of principal double-bass with the London Symphony Orchestra, Alina has won near universal praise for her exciting performances that sees her not so much interpret music as seemingly become possessed by it. Her performances of repertoire from Bach – her radical, incendiary recordings of the solo sonatas and partitas were hailed as a classic – to Huw Watkins, from Beethoven to Karl Amadeus Hartmann, have intensity and a commitment that makes her an utterly compelling musician.

When she was recently asked her where such intensity comes from, she replied: 'I've no idea, but I do think it's important that music should speak as directly as possible. We should always be trying to achieve something further in the music, something that's almost impossible.'

Britten Sinfonia's co-director Jacqueline Shave said: 'I have played with Alina quite a few times now and we have quite a good relationship. We always have to listen to her as she has a unique sound and an ability to really draw an audience in, I admire her because she doesn't sound like anyone else that I know. She is always a very haunting player to listen to and she is quite something.'

Jacqueline has just returned to the Sinfonia after taking a year off which included heading north herself, including staging Beethoven string quartet concerts in the Outer Hebrides, sailing in the Faroe Islands and recording an improvised album with internationally renowned tabla player Japjit Kaur.

'The reason why this concert is called Baltic Nights is because we're playing pieces by two composers from that area,' she said. 'A Lativan called ?riks Ešenvalds who we know quite well. He is actually going to be around and will be doing the pre-concert talk in Norwich. He has written a new piece for us, which is very exciting. We recorded his Passion and Resurrection previously — and actually performed it here in Norwich, so that's going to be fabulous.

'The other piece is by someone called P?teris Vasks, who is Estonian, and Alina will be playing his Berlin Concerto.'

Also on stage will be the professional singing ensemble Britten Sinfonia Voices, who are the orchestra's very own choral group made up of both emerging and experienced talent.

'The Voices will be in two pieces. They will be singing the Pérotin to begin with, which is just for voices by this pre-medieval composer. Then they will be singing some beautiful Bach later. They are also involved in the Ešenvalds piece in an interesting and rather unconventional way. I'm not going to say anymore because I think it would be giving the game away, but they're going to be based in unexpected places in the concert hall so that should be quite interesting visually.'

t Britten Sinfonia – Baltic Nights, Norwich Theatre Royal, March 3, 7.30pm, £26-£6.50, 01603 630000,

t The free pre-concert talk with ?riks Ešenvalds takes place at 6.30pm