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Hyperion Records

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Track(s) taken from CDA67547
Recording details: November 2006
Henry Wood Hall, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Andrew Keener
Engineered by David Hinitt
Release date: September 2007
Total duration: 21 minutes 40 seconds

'Their [Sonatas and Suites] muscularity, contrapuntal and harmonic élan and the sense of self-belief they exude show them to be products of a formidable, free-thinking creator. Ibragimoba proves an ideal exponent, her tempi freer and more elastic (and mostly quicker) than Turban's … Ibragimova's greater fluency and flexibility pay greater dividends time and again … [Concerto funebre] Ibragimova's fiercely clear-eyed account—alive to the music's expressive demands as well as its dynamic markings—faces stiff competition but need not fear comparison with any of the dozen or so rival accounts. Her technique is formidable to say the least … Hyperion's couplings and recording quality, to say nothing of the excellent Britten Sinfonia, deserve a share in the plaudits. Recommended' (Gramophone)

'An auspicious and admirably adventurous recording debut for one of the most exciting of today's young violinists, Alina Ibragimova. With the Britten Sinfonia strings providing incisive support, she steers a committed yet level-headed course through this emotive work, bringing plenty of tonal variety and expressive subtlety to play on Hartmann's deeply felt music. These characteristics also colour her brilliant playing of the solo works, with their echoes of everything from Bach to Bartók' (The Daily Telegraph)

'Wonderfully assured … the way in which the playing of the Britten Sinfonia dovetails with hers is always compelling. Ibragimova pairs the concerto with the solo violin suites and sonatas … in these wonderfully fluent pieces, it is perfectly married with the contrapuntal ideas that Hartmann clearly derived from Bach's solo violin works; Ibragimova conveys their crispness and clarity to perfection' (The Guardian)

'Crisply and incisively argued … musicianship of the highest order' (International Record Review)

'She is Russian, 23, and a scorchingly good violinist. This is her CD recital debut; always a testing occasion, but especially for young violinists. What repertoire should be chosen? … Ibragimova has chosen the third route, towards serious and neglected repertory … Hartmann had his youthful iconoclasms, but the agony of the Second World War brought out the tragic artist in him … to the adagio section [Concerto funebre] she brings passion without mawkishness; and the control wielded at high altitudes is phenomenal. The Britten Sinfonia, led by Jacqueline Shave, make fluent sounds too, amplified by Hyperion's lively recording—close to the mike, but never in your face … Ibragimova is marvellously sturdy and exact, especially when making perilous leaps from exposed places. And she plays with such commitment and feeling … as for her next disc, the doors are wide open. But whatever Ibragimova plays, it'll be worth hearing' (The Times)

'An auspicious recording debut by the 22-year-old violinist Alina Ibragimova. Hartmann's four unaccompanied violin works … are not for the faint-hearted executant. They are, however, compelling, brilliant pieces, speaking of the sharp intellect and wide-ranging imagination of a composer who was at least the equal of Hindemith … Ibragimova brings to each piece a formidable technical and musical command, her sound always vividly coloured, her response the right mix of spontaneous passion and practised control' (The Sunday Times)

'As her performance of Hartmann's Concerto proves, Ibragimova is capable of delivering the bold, knotty statements upon which these works' success depends, with the appropriate Affekt. For example, in the First Suite, she transforms herself from a cheerful contrapuntist, in the movement entitled 'Fuga: Munter', to a relaxed chanteuse in the penultimate 'Dreiteilege Liedform', to an edgy knife thrower with Bartók-like fragments in the final Ciaconna. And the demands on her flexibility seem almost endless. The precocious Alina Ibragimova offers a program of engaging and thoughtful works that she's approached with an equally engaging, interpretive and masterfully commanding musical personality that brooks no opposition. Strongly recommended to violinists, to violin aficionados, and to general listeners of all predilections' (Fanfare, USA)

'Hartmann's invention is consistently inventive—and of real substance—and benefits from Alina Ibragimova's interpretative focus and technical security: she has clearly taken huge trouble to get inside this music and give performances of insight, dedication and bravura. Each movement emerges as an emotional testimony of Hartmann's wide-ranging stylistic craft … Ibragimova and the conductor-less Britten Sinfonia make a very strong case for Concerto funebre (1939, revised in 1959)—certainly the most convincing account this listener has heard … what impresses with this Hyperion account is how eloquent Hartmann's music is, how deeply felt it is, and how electrifying the frenetic third movement is—and wonderfully clarified in this performance … and how the composer’s emotionalism and rhythmic ingenuity is absorbed into a convincing whole. This is music with direct connection to the listener. If you don’t know the Concerto (or, indeed, any of the music here—it has taken many decades for the solo-violin works to get even a foothold on the repertoire) then Ibragimova and the Britten Sinfonia's wild-eyed enthusiasm and musical consideration—superbly recorded—could well be the best way to enter Hartmann's specific but universal world. A revelation!' (ClassicalSource.com)

Concerto funebre
composer
1939, revised 1959

Adagio  [7'00]
Allegro di molto  [8'33]

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
By the time Hartmann composed the Concerto funebre in the Autumn of 1939, he had written several notable works including the original version of his first symphony, Versuch eines Requiems (Attempt at a Requiem, on texts by Walt Whitman), the symphonic poem Miserae, the first string quartet and the opera Simplicius Simplicissimus. He seems to have started the concerto in July and continued it through the outbreak of World War II. The work was partly inspired by Hartmann’s feelings about the Nazi annexation of Czechoslovakia the previous year, and he distilled into it all his feelings of pain for his country and countrymen and his foreboding of the fate that awaited them all. He dedicated it to his four-year-old son Richard, whose fate in the coming times concerned him most of all. As he wrote many years later: ‘The date indicates the underlying character of the work, and the reason I wrote it. The four movements … are played without a break. The chorales at the beginning and end are intended to offer a sign of hope against the desperate situation of thinking people … I wanted to write down everything I thought and felt, and that gave me the form and the melodic style.’

At this stage the work was called Musik der Trauer (Music of mourning), a title that recalls Hindemith’s Trauermusik for viola and strings written three years earlier. There was no question of such a work being performed in Germany at that time, nor had any of Hartmann’s works been heard there during the previous six years; but by this time he had something of an international reputation and contacts with musicians elsewhere in Europe. The premiere took place in Switzerland, in 1940, with the St Gallen Chamber Orchestra, whose leader Karl Neracher was the soloist. The conductor was Ernst Klug, with whom Hartmann had been in correspondence for some years; Klug had aided Hartmann’s brother, also called Richard, who had decided to leave Germany, to find a safe haven in Switzerland. Long after the war, in 1959, Hartmann revised the concerto, and it was only then that it acquired the title Concerto funebre by which it has become generally known.

As Hartmann’s note mentions, the work is cast in four movements, and makes use of chorale melodies. The movements are arranged in two pairs, but played without a break. To this extent it might recall the violin concerto by Alban Berg, but the two works have little else in common apart from their sombre colouring. (In fact the Hindemith Trauermusik, also in four continuous movements and ending with a hymn-tune, may be a closer parallel.) The first movement is essentially an introduction: the melody intoned by the violin, punctuated by brief responses from the strings, is a traditional Hussite chorale, ‘You who are God’s Warriors’, a direct reference to Czechoslovakia. The simplicity of this movement is immediately contradicted by the highly emotional Adagio which follows. Phrases of the chorale are varied here, in a highly chromatic texture, the strings’ dotted rhythms taking on a slow-march character, while the solo instrument’s lament unfolds freely, plaintively, and with increasing eloquence, climaxing in an outcry in the very highest reaches of its register. The violin joins in the strings’ slow-march music to create unanimity in a deeply expressive coda.

The Allegro di molto third movement is a frenetic, highly virtuosic scherzo, like a danse macabre, dominated by hammering quaver rhythms. Hartmann deploys the full resources of his complex, expanded-tonal language from dense polyphony to obsessive ostinati, explosive chords, rapid alternations of arco and pizzicato in both solo and orchestra. The tempo increases to a feverish climax, twice interrupted by a mysterious pianissimo theme in the violin’s low register. The second appearance leads to a short and brilliant unaccompanied cadenza, and the movement concludes with a slow coda, sehr breit (very broad), harking back to the mood of the Adagio. The final movement is entitled ‘Choral’, with the qualification Langsamer Marsch. But the melody, unfolded in a series of serene responses between strings and violin, is a Russian song, variously known as ‘For the Fallen Revolutionaries’ and ‘You fell in Battle’. (Three years previously, Benjamin Britten had used this theme as the basis of his Russian Funeral for brass; eventually Shostakovich would base the third movement of his Symphony No 11 on it.) In the coda the theme melds with reminiscences of the Adagio; all seems to be fading out into silence, but a sudden loud dissonance closes the proceedings in anger.

from notes by Calum MacDonald © 2007

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