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Interview: Alina Ibragimova

PUBLISHED: 08:36 19 March 2009 | UPDATED: 15:40 29 October 2010

Tony Cooper

She is alreday hugely acclaimed and predicted to be the star of classical music for years to come. Ahead of an appearance in Norwich, TONY COOPER speaks to violinist Alina Ibragimova.

She is predicted to be the star of classical music for years to come. Ahead of an appearance in Norwich, TONY COOPER speaks to violinist Alina Ibragimova.

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In the final concert of the Britten Sinfonia's inaugural season at Norwich's Theatre Royal, all eyes will be on the young, talented and strikingly good-looking Russian violinist.

Alina Ibragimova, who'll be directing this fine orchestra in two Bach violin concerti as well as movements from the Art of Fugue while the distinguished harpsichordist, Maggie Cole, will direct from the keyboard Bach's F minor keyboard concerto no 5 and the orchestra's leader, Jacqueline Shave, will direct Kurtág.

But such is the scope of Ms Ibragimova's repertoire that she's just as happy playing contemporary music as well as works from the glorious baroque period.

And just a week before her Norwich concert she gave her first reading of Ligeti's violin concerto with the BBC Symphony Orchestra under Edward Gardner at London's Barbican Centre.

A star in the making she's the youngest-ever winner of the Royal Philharmonic Society's Emily Anderson Prize. The critic of The Times said that she performs with “a mixture of total abandonment and total control that is in no way contradictory” and that she's “destined to be a force in the classical music firmament for decades to come”.

Recent engagements have also seen her guest with the Philharmonia Orchestra, the Vienna Chamber Orchestra and the City of Birmingham Symphony as well as making her BBC Proms debut with the London Symphony Orchestra in which her father is principal bass.

But such was her prominence in the classical musical world she was chosen to be a member of the BBC New Generation Artists Scheme in the 2005-07 season appearing frequently on BBC Radio 3 and with all of the BBC orchestras. Still only 24, she's a precious commodity!

And the instrument she performs on is equally precious, too, as it's a 1738 violin crafted by Pietro Guarneri of Venice kindly provided by Georg von Opel. She's also a recipient of a 2008 Borletti-Buitoni Trust award.

Musically speaking she got off to a good start in her musical life mainly thanks to her parents.

“My mother was a violinist and my father a distinguished musician,” she says, “so it really helped and supported my musical education. By the time I was four years old I was learning the violin and a year later I found myself attending classes at the Gnessin State Musical College in Moscow.”

She was most definitely on her way. Her move to England came about when her father took up the post of principal bass with the LSO in 1996. In the following year Ms Ibragimova began her studies at the Yehudi Menuhin School (where her mother is professor of violin) under Natasha Boyarskaya.

Two-years later she performed with Nicola Benedetti at the opening ceremony of the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights at UNESCO in Paris. They played Bach's double violin concerto under the baton of Yehudi Menuhin. Three months later he was dead and as a tribute to him Ms Ibragimova performed the slow movement of the same concerto at his funeral in Westminster Abbey.

Benedetti, incidentally, will be appearing at this year's Norfolk and Norwich Festival at the John Innes Centre on May 11 playing piano trios by Rachmaninov, Beethoven and Tchaikovsky.

“After finishing my studies at the Menuhin School,” she further explained, “I enjoyed a year at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and then went on to London's Royal College of Music studying under Gordan Nikolitch. I'm extremely keen on quartet playing and to this end I moved with other students from the college to form the period-instrument string quartet Chiaroscuro, which focuses on a repertoire from the classical period. However, the biggest breakthrough in my career came in 2005 when I was privileged to play Bach's double violin concerto alongside Gidon Kremer and the world-renowned Kremerata Baltica at the Salzburg Mozarteum.”

I first heard Alina play in 2008 with the Britten Sinfonia and was immediately struck by her performance. I heard her in Bach's A minor violin concerto together with KA Hartmann's concerto funebre. They were performed to an exacting degree. Her playing was clear and precise while her technique was simply superb. There and then I realised that she was destined to be a major force in the classical music world for years to come.

Completing the Britten Sinfonia's concert at Norwich's Theatre Royal are works by the Austrian composer Alban Berg and the Hungarian composer György Kurtág.

Berg's Lyric Suite - a six-movement work using methods derived from Schoenberg's 12-tone technique - is dedicated to Alexander von Zemlinsky from whose Lyric Symphony it quotes while Kurtág's piece - Signs, Games and Messages - acknowledges the composer's debt to Bach in Hommage à JSB, an exploration of a Bach-like melodic line. The piece features Ms Ibragimova as soloist.

t Britten Sinfonia Bach Plus will be at the Theatre Royal, March 20 £6-£25, 01603 630000, www.theatreroyalnorwich.co.uk

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