LSO International Violin Festival: Meet Alina Ibragimova

Having started her career at just 6 years of age, Alina Ibragimova has performed everything from Baroque works through to new commissions, from the international stage to Westminster Abbey, with world-renowned conductors and orchestras. We find out more about her, the work Bernard Haitink has chosen for her to perform, and her violin, in this blog.

Alina Ibragimova

SlideImg0Alina Ibragimova was born in Russia in 1985 to a musical family. She started playing violin at the age of four, and at five started at the Gnessin State Musical College in Moscow. Aged six, her career started by performing with various orchestras, including the Bolshoi Theatre Orchestra (pictured).

In 1995 her father, Rinat Ibragimov, took up the post of LSO Principal Double Bass, and her family moved to the UK. Alina studied at the Yehudi Menuhin School (where Nicola Benedetti was her classmate and her mother is professor of violin), under Natasha Boyarskaya; she later went on to study at the Royal College of Music with LSO Leader Gordan Nikolitch. She has also studied with Christian Tetzlaff as part of the Kronberg Academy Masters programme and won the 2002 London Symphony Music Scholarship (formerly the Shell Prize).

In 1998, Alina Ibragimova and Nicola Benedetti performed Bach’s Double Violin Concerto under the baton of Yehudi Menuhin; when Menuhin died three years later, Ibragimova played the slow movement of the concerto at his funeral in Westminster Abbey.

Alina Ibragimova has performed everything from Baroque works through to new commissions on both modern and period instruments, with international orchestras and world-renowned conductors. She was a BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artist from 2005-7 and has won several awards, including the Royal Philharmonic Society Young Artist Award 2010 and the Classical BRIT Young Performer of the Year Award 2009.

LSO History

Alina Ibragimova made her LSO debut in 2007 at the BBC Proms under François-Xavier Roth performing works by Piazzolla. Since then she has performed on the Barbican stage, in BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Concerts at LSO St Luke’s, and on a UK tour, performing Schumann’s Violin Concerto under the baton of John Eliot Gardner.

Ibragimova is no stranger to the Orchestra, as her father, Rinat Ibragimov, is LSO Principal Double Bass. ‘Ever since I moved to London, my father worked in the London Symphony Orchestra as Principal Bass, so I know everyone – these are faces I’ve seen on stage before. I grew up with them. It makes a difference; it was always something I dreamt of when I was young, playing with the LSO. Of course, it’s very special, and of course the LSO sound and the dynamic experience of going to an LSO concert is always unforgettable. I’m really excited to be having a concert with them.’

Sunday’s concert will be the first time she has performed with Bernard Haitink as a soloist; however, she has shared the stage with him before: ‘at the Royal College I led the orchestra once when he conducted Bruckner 7, which was amazing.’

The Concerto

Mozart wrote all five of his violin concertos within 3 years, from 1773 to 1775. Arguably the most popular of his violin concerti, his Violin Concerto No 3, was composed in 1775 – the same year that Ibragimova’s violin was made – when Mozart was just 19.

The first movement of the concerto is rather unusual: the beginning is based on an aria from Mozart’s opera Il re pastore (The Shepherd King); Mozart rarely borrowed excerpts from his other works for his new compositions. Albert Einstein described the second movement as an ‘Adagio that seems to have fallen straight from heaven’, and one of the melodies that the soloist plays in the third movement is based on a popular song of Mozart’s time, ‘The Strasbourger’.

Talking about the work, Alina Ibragimova said, ‘It was actually Bernard Haitink’s choice, which is great as I get to learn it, because I’ve never played it before.’ Since this interview, Alina has completed a three-day tour of the piece with the North Carolina Symphony (Feb 2015).

She continues: It’s G major, very operatic, very beautiful; I’m really excited about playing it. I guess with Mozart in general I love playing it – I find it so witty and full of dialogue. For a long time I thought it was very difficult, but once you overcome the fear of the fact that you’re playing Mozart, and that it’s so perfect, you start to be naughty with it – and that’s when it comes to life!’

The Violin

Alina Ibragimova has played an Anselmo Bellosio violin for the last nine years, on loan from Georg von Opel. Considered to be one of the last great Venetian luthiers, Bellosio’s creations are made of fine wood and finished with a red-brown varnish; there are very few instruments that bear his name. ‘Bellosio’s work is rare but skilfully executed and beautifully finished.’ says Ibragimova; she goes on to quote the British violin expert, craftsman and dealer, Charles Beare, ‘the great 18th century Venetian school of violin making can be said to have died out in his shop under the clock tower in Piazza San Marco.’

Ibragimova’s violin dates from around 1775: ‘It’s beautiful, it’s very dark,’ she says. ‘It has more golden colours. I’ve heard people say that it reminds them more of a viola at times; it’s got that kind of range.’

I find it quite hard to choose violins usually,’ she explains. ‘Because I like a violin to not just do what I tell it to do, in a way – I like it to come up with something itself. In a way, I don’t always know what to expect [from this violin].’

So how long does it take to get used to a new violin? ‘To be able to play in a concert it would take me, I don’t know, a few weeks probably to get to know an instrument. But to really really know a violin and to really feel like it’s your own, I would say one year.’


Some excerpts originally printed in The Strad and re-printed with permission.

Alina Ibragimova appears in the LSO International Violin Festival at the Barbican on Sunday 14 June, performing Mozart Violin Concerto No 3.
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We'll be getting to know the stars of the Violin Festival on the LSO Blog throughout the Festival, so keep checking back to read out latest interviews and behind the scenes stories.