Laurel and Hardy, Scylla and Charybdis, salt and pepper: think of one and you think of the other, locked in eternal partnership. The same isn’t quite true of the violinist Alina Ibragimova and the pianist Cédric Tiberghien, for both have flourishing independent careers spreading excitement around the world. Yet their gigs together, begun 14 years ago when they were part of the BBC New Generation Artists scheme, are always special occasions. I well remember them in 2007 at the Cheltenham Music Festival, two benign arsonists setting fire to Elgar’s Violin Sonata.
Even then, their rapport seemed remarkable. Since then it has grown in strength and subtlety, as shown in this compelling album of more or less French repertoire, composed from the 1880s to 1911. Listen to the slow movement of the surprising sonata by the organ specialist Louis Vierne, where Tiberghien’s aqueous flow so gracefully supports Ibragimova’s long-legged, lazy song. Neither treads on the other’s toes; equally true when they’re driving the music hard and fast, as in Vierne’s opening allegro or the much more familiar sonata by César Franck.
Ibragimova excels at sweeping along, hotly feeling every bar on every track, from the mix of whispered lyricism and incendiary blaze in Ysaÿe’s Poème élégiaque to the delicate pianissmo highwire act of Lili Boulanger’s Nocturne, the most delectable of encores. What a pleasure dome this album is.