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Ibragimova Plays Bach

Violinist Alina Ibragimova sits at a table with her instrument in front of her
Eva Vermandel
Alina Ibragimova

With director Jonathan Cohen and his ensemble Arcangelo, Alina Ibragimova is the soloist in Bach's Violin Concerto in D minor, and Christophe Coin leads the Cantata No. 85, "I Am the Good Shepherd," on The Bach Hour.

On the program:

Chorale Prelude on Allein Gott in der Höh' sei Ehr, BWV 663 (trans. Samuil Feinberg) - Martin Roscoe, piano

Cantata BWV 85 Ich bin ein guter Hirt (translation) - Barbara Schlick, soprano; Andreas Scholl, countertenor; Christoph Pregardien, tenor; Gotthold Schwarz, bass; Concerto Vocale of Leipzig and Baroque Ensemble of Limoges, Christophe Coin, conductor

Violin Concerto in D minor, BWV 1052 (reconstructed from Keyboard Concerto No. 1 in D minor) - Alina Ibragimova, violin; Arcangelo, Jonathan Cohen, conductor

Chorale Prelude on Allein Gott in der Höh' sei Ehr, BWV 662 (trans. Samuil Feinberg) - Martin Roscoe, piano



The Roman god Janus has two faces, looking simultaneously to the future and the past. It’s not unlike the way this music by Bach looks to the concert hall and to the church.


The first version Bach wrote was for the violin. But the emotional power inherent in the music led him to transform it multiple times, for different settings.


You’ll hear that original version, with violinist Alina Ibragimova, coming up on The Bach Hour.


Hello, I'm Brian McCreath; welcome to The Bach Hour from Classical Radio Boston WCRB, a part of WGBH. Bach was, among many other things, an extremely prolific composer. But if he were subjected to a modern day corporate employee evaluation, there’s no doubt that he would get top marks for efficiency in finding new uses for previously created material. One of his most virtuosic concertos was an especially fruitful piece, and Alina Ibragimova included it in her 2015 release of Bach concertos. Also on the program today is the Cantata No. 85, Ich bin ein guter Hirt, or “I am a Good Shepherd.” You’ll find a translation of that piece from Boston’s Emmanuel Music when you visit us online at Classical WCRB dot org, where you can hear this program again on demand. Again, that’s at Classical WCRB dot org.

One part of the Cantata 85 is based on a chorale entitled “All Glory be to God on High.” And here is an organ prelude based on that same hymn tune, transcribed by Samuel Feinberg and performed by Martin Roscoe, here on The Bach Hour.

[MUSIC – BWV 663]

A prelude based on the chorale “All Glory be to God on High,” in a performance by pianist Martin Roscoe.

That same chorale is one part of what’s behind the Cantata No. 85, Ich bin ein guter Hirt, or “I am a Good Shepherd.” Written for the second Sunday after Easter, its thematic basis is a passage from the Gospel of John in which Jesus compares himself to a shepherd, and his disciples to sheep.

It’s the voice of Jesus that begins the cantata, in a short aria for the bass soloist, who sings the opening of that passage from John: “I am a good shepherd; a good shepherd gives up his life for his sheep.”

The metaphor of Jesus as The Good Shepherd is affirmed in the next aria by the alto soloist, joined by a roiling solo piccolo cello.

The soprano then sings, from the perspective of an individual believer, part of Psalm 23: “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” Musically, it’s built on that same chorale tune that forms the basis for the prelude we just heard, and Bach adds the pastoral sound of oboes to strengthen the reference to the shepherd.


There’s beautiful imagery in this setting, “He leads me, His lamb, to pasture in a lovely green meadow, He leads me to fresh water, to refresh my soul,” and that imagery provides the turning point for the cantata.

After the emphasis on sacrifice in the opening movements, the tone now shifts to a warm, embracing sound as the tenor sings about the steadfast protectiveness of Jesus as the Good Shepherd, a message that’s reinforced by the community voice of the final chorale.

Remember, you’ll find a translation of this piece, from Boston’s Emmanuel Music, when you visit our web site, Classical WCRB dot org.

Here is a performance of the Cantata 85, featuring soprano Barbara Schlick, countertenor Andreas Scholl, tenor Christoph Pregardien, and bass Gotthold Schwarz. Christophe Coin leads Concerto Vocale of Leipzig and the Baroque Ensemble of Limoges, here on The Bach Hour.

[MUSIC – BWV 85]

The Cantata No. 85 by Bach, Ich bin ein guter Hirt, or “I am the Good Shepherd,” in a performance featuring soprano Barbara Schlick, countertenor Andreas Scholl, tenor Christoph Pregardien, and bass Gotthold Schwarz, along with Concerto Vocale of Leipzig and the Baroque Ensemble of Limoges, all directed by Christophe Coin.

Violinist Alina Ibragimova was born in 1985 in Russia, about a thousand miles west of Moscow. She now lives in London, and in 2015 she released a recording of Bach concertos, a follow up to her 2009 release of Bach’s solo violin works, made when she was only 24. When she was in town to perform with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, I asked her how Bach initially came into her life.

Alina Ibragimova With difficulty. [laughs] I started playing Bach when I was at school, and I remember finding it really hard. I had a sort of sense of what I wanted, but really couldn't find it. I really remember it being a struggle. I remember standing in the practice room and being frustrated. And it really took me some time to find the balance between the globality of it, the personal things, the style, you know, it really took time.

Brian McCreath The concertos that you've just recorded, was there a way that you were approaching these works that you might not have earlier on?

Alina Ibragimova Well, my sort of hesitancy, because I thought about recording them for a long time. But I didn't want to make the disc that's the sort of combination that so many people have done already. So I wanted to do something different. And then, Jonathan Cohen, the director of Arcangelo, he came up with this program of doing the harpsichord transcriptions as well. And it's a great energy. We've had so much fun.

Brian McCreath And from that recording, here is the Violin Concerto in D minor. Jonathan Cohen directs Arcangelo, with violinist Alina Ibragimova, here on The Bach Hour.

[MUSIC – BWV 1052]

This Violin Concerto in D minor is a reconstruction of what many think was the original version of the piece. It’s a piece for which Bach clearly had a strong attachment. He went on to create a version for harpsichord, and its emotional power also forms the foundation of the Cantata No. 146. This performance featured violinist Alina Ibragimova, with conductor Jonathan Cohen and Arcangelo.

Let’s return now to the chorale prelude transcriptions of Russian composer Samuel Feinberg. Here is another of Bach’s preludes on “All Glory be to God on High,” with pianist Martin Roscoe.

[MUSIC – BWV 632]

Another of the preludes on “All Glory be to God on High,” a piece Bach originally wrote for organ, and transcribed by Twentieth Century Russian composer Samuel Feinberg. Martin Roscoe was the pianist.

Remember, if you’d like to hear this program on demand, just visit us online at Classical WCRB dot org.

Thank you for joining me today, and thanks also to audio engineer Antonio Oliart Ros. I’m Brian McCreath, and I’ll hope to have your company again next week here on The Bach Hour.