Alina Ibragimova MBE, Principal Violin, gives the Regis School of Music 25th Anniversary Public Concert at Recital Hall, Sudley Road, Bognor Regis on Sunday September 19 (7:30 am). JS Bach, Partita No 2 in D minor BWV1004; Paganini, 24 Caprices, Nos 13 19 24; Ysaye, Violin Sonata No. 3 ‘Ballade’.
The house was full, the atmosphere was full of wonder and admiration like never before. Bringing a world-class artist to the people of his hometown and West Sussex is not a daily possibility at the Regis School of Music. But if money was the cause of the celebration, gold was what came.
Alina Ibragimova’s stunning appearance on solo violin at the 2015 BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall has been reproduced in intimate and communal miniature. Just her, dressed in elegant slit black pants and a tank top, wavy earrings, plus her companions and virtuoso conspirators Bach the German, Paganini the Italian and Ysaye the Belgian – plus the delighted audience . She and this music came raw, ready, rebellious, reactionary, revealing, lovely, full.
Her 1775 violin, Anselmo Bellasio, evoking, moving, exploding, emerging from the charming little stage built years ago even now, seemingly as if just for her – born in Britain, Russian blood – heart, mind, memory – wood, metal, intestine. With music so absorbing, lonely yet universal, dramatic yet heartfelt, as well as exuberantly unbridled, her connection with her listeners was direct, instantaneous, unchanging, unmistakable and literally stunning.
An audience thrown on the back foot. Solo violin, live: this for many, perhaps a unique experience. The listeners, spirits captured, struggled at first to convert the reaction into a physical applause as the opening Partita, which seems to contemplate the full gamut of life, completed its reclining Chaconne – only Ibragimova’s insight and the authentic historical baroque approach have turned it into a 250-year-old mini epic.
Things then got even more virtuoso, with Ibragimova making her violin a blunt and magnificent instrument.
In Paganini’s 13th Caprice, “The Devil’s Laughter,” Ibragimova’s dexterity, articulation, and imagination brought Satan, sneering, scowling, and spitting, ogling strange darkness straight into your face. In the end, the audience didn’t know whether to roar or run towards him. She had the crazy No. 19 G string attacking wildly and lowering the quivering and almost strangled E high.
Then the closing “I know this melody!” No. 24, which Paganini dedicated to himself, âin my graveâ. . . Did Paganini have a pact with the devil, 19th century musos inquired, or was he even the devil himself? Ibragimova was all excited, then incredulous when the two-handed spizzicato bit happened. Ysaye’s quickly told story, the Sonata, simply unfolded as bravery and astonishment overflowed. Nothing could follow.
Presenting high-level artists is part of his confidence and commitment to the philosophy of school principals Alexander and Nina Levtov. They succeed in sending the students to the professional ranks. The concert interval began with Bognor’s Deputy Mayor Councilor John Barrett, a retired engineer and new to guitar learning, publicly congratulating them on these key elements.
The Levtovs first settled in the city 41 years ago and this Silver Jubilee celebration was ostensibly conceived by Alexander a long time ago, after just one of those 25 years. The famous Yehudi Menuhin School in Surrey, linked to the Regis School of Music, was giving a concert as part of their performance experience.
Among these children, both led by the same teacher, a colleague of the Levtovs, were Nicola Benedetti and Alina Ibragimova. Alexander triumphantly remembers: âAlina, who was 12, stood by the large street window of our recital hall. I went to ask him, “When you’re famous, will you come back here and play for us?” And she said, ‘Ooh, yeah.’ “
Alina, a few days before her 36th birthday, remembers: âYes, we were preparing for the Menuhin Violin Competition. I don’t remember everything I played back then, but I did Lalo’s Spanish Symphony. She would have played the solo violin with a piano playing the orchestral part.
There was a time when the London Mozart Players regularly visited the Esplanade Theater. The fifth Bognor heyday theater to disappear, it closed and was demolished in April 1980 – the same year the Levtovs arrived in town.
At the end of the concert, two students from the Regis School helped Alexander Levtov with the three bouquets that the Regis Music School wanted Alina Ibragimova to bring back to London. Isaac Kuroswki, 10, now a grade 3 violinist who also plays the piano, was one. The other was 12-year-old Elena Dew, a pianist whose older brother James strides forward with a Regis School of Music badge on her cello case.
With the National Children’s Orchestra, James Dew participated in Ibragimova’s workshop on Vivaldi’s âSpringâ Four Seasons concerto during his memorable 2015 BBC Proms season. Now, at this summer’s Proms, James has spent three years in the National Youth Orchestra at Albert Hall with Nicola Benedetti performing Shostakovich’s Violin Concerto. He is now entering the Royal College of Music to study with cello guru Raphael Wallfisch.
This remarkable Regis MS Sunday event left me reflecting with Alina Ibragimova on the power and privilege of giving an entire solo concert on one instrument, providing that opportunity to completely overwhelm an audience on your own. Some others do – pianists, harpsichordists, organists, cellists, harpists, lutenists, classical or folk-classical guitarists (eg Gordon Giltrap).
Then I found myself comparing the equivalent potential of another extremely charismatic yet modern instrument, the electric rock guitar, to hold an audience for 75 minutes. This comparison did not last very long.
Alexander Levtov teaches classical guitar. But that night a different instrument was supreme. âThe sounds of Alina’s violin still resonate in our hearts,â he says, âand the 26th season at RSM has had a spectacular start!