Review: Alina Ibragimova | Death and the Maiden

A breath-taking performance by the Australian Chamber Orchestra and violin superstar Alina Ibragimova.
Review: Alina Ibragimova | Death and the Maiden

Image via Alina Ibragimova

Russian violinist Alina Ibragimova curated an eclectic program of soulful chamber works for this rather funereal concert.   The title piece, more formally known as Franz Schubert's superb String Quartet in D minor, was the momentous finale to a superb evening.  This was played as an arrangement for orchestra by the Australian Chamber Orchestra's (ACO) own Artistic Director Richard Tognetti that pays homage to its origins as a quartet while offering a greater depth of expression.  The slow movement, andante con moto, was especially haunting and the final presto was full of passion and vigour.  The audience erupted into excited applause the very moment Ibragimova relaxed her bow.   


The concert opened with Samuel Barber’s deeply moving Adagio for Strings. Ibragimova and the sixteen members of the orchestra played with a sustained intensity, highlighting the musical tension.  I was certain the audience around me was collectively holding its breath throughout the piece!

The delightful Adagio and Fugue in C minor by Mozart followed the Barber and it felt like there was a natural synergy between the two pieces.  The Mozart felt lighter and brighter than the Barber, but maintained a certain formality and complexity of composition. 

Karl Amadeus Hartmann’s Concerto funebre for violin and string orchestra led us into interval.  Composed in response to the horrors of Nazism in Second World War, and substantively revised in 1959, this is music for strings at its most powerful and dramatic.  And it was now that the audience could fully appreciate Ibragimova’s astonishing skill as she took centre-stage for this extraordinary work.  Playing entirely extemporaneously, Ibragimova gave voice to every scintilla of emotion in her instrument.  The sense of urgency and desperation in the adagio was electrifying.

After interval, the brief  Silouan’s Song added a touch of overt religiosity to the program.  Written in 1991 by Estonian composer Arvo Pärt, this is an uneasy piece, full of dissonance and jarring contrasts.  And then it was into Heaven with the Schubert filling out the program.

Throughout the concert, the ACO displayed exquisite timing and impeccable precision.  Principal Violin Helena Rathbone, playing her beautiful 1759 Guadanini instrument, was outstanding.  And Guest Principals Florian Peelman on viola and Tim Gibbs on double bass also gave noteworthy performances.  But it seems churlish to mention only a few when the company as a whole were great form.  This was indeed a magnificent performance and the Recital Hall audience went home thoroughly sated.


Alina Ibragimova | Death and the Maiden
Australian Chamber Orchestra

Sydney Opera House

Alina Ibragimova -  Solo violin and director
BARBER Adagio for Strings
MOZART Adagio and Fugue in C minor
HARTMANN Concerto funebre
ARVO PÄRT Silouan’s Song
SCHUBERT (arr. strings) String Quartet in D minor, ‘Death and the Maiden’
Death and the Maiden is touring nationally to March 26th 


Dr Diana Carroll

Friday 23 March, 2018

About the author

Dr Diana Carroll is a writer, speaker, and reviewer based in Adelaide. Her work has been published in newspapers and magazines including the SMH, the Oz, Woman's Day, and B&T. Writing about the arts is one of her great passions.