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Savoring the Glow of Brahms’s Violin Sonatas

Alina Ibragimova and Cedric Tiberghien
Askonas Holt
Alina Ibragimova and Cedric Tiberghien

Twelve years of playing together has given violinist Alina Ibragimova and pianist Cédric Tiberghien a sixth sense for capturing the heartbreak and the nobility of Brahms, and their new album is our CD of the Week.

The tug of nostalgia that radiates from so much of the music of Brahms has earned him the inescapable label “autumnal.” It’s understandable. The mists of the season tend to float in like memories, and the radiance of the early sunsets are melancholy reminders of the passage of time. Brahms’s three violin sonatas are a blueprint for that atmosphere, and violinist Alina Ibragimova and pianist Cédric Tiberghien are both in love with it.

The first of Brahms’s three violin sonatas uses music from his own nostalgic song based on poetry by his friend Klaus Groth: “Flow, rain, flow down, and reawaken in me the dreams I dreamed in my childhood.” The opening two-and-a-half minutes of the sonata are painfully beautiful, with Ibragimova’s subdued and burnished presence singing above the gentle heartbeats and crystalline raindrops provided by Tiberghien. The steadier rain that arrives in the last movement is magical, and the sense of peace that comes at the very end, as the sonata dissolves, is one of music’s most touching moments. These players make it happen with love and wisdom.

The second sonata, like the first, has a miraculous atmosphere of tenderness and lengthening shadows. It features yearning fragments of songs written for mezzo-soprano Hermine Spies, and whether or not Brahms felt the same attraction for her that she felt for him doesn’t really matter – the sonata breathes with so much heart that we all take it personally, and Ibragimova and Tiberghien play it with incredible intimacy.

After the third sonata’s restless journey through Brahms’s expressive world, Ibragimova and Tiberghien have filled out their new CD with a piece of sheer moonlight – the first of Clara Schumann’s Three Romances. It’s hard to imagine the loving heartache in this piece given more glow or handled with more reverence and understanding than it is here. In this Clara Schumann anniversary month (her 200th birthday would be September 13), let this one get under your skin. It’s unspeakably gorgeous.

Here's their sixth sense on display in Mozart:

Watch a trailer for the album:

For more information and to purchase this album, visit Arkiv Music.

Cathy Fuller is a Host and Producer for CRB.