The first recording from Russian violinist Alina Ibragimova and pianist Steven Osborne is a gripping affair, a powerhouse of performance and interpretation probing deep into the soul of one of the great masterworks of 20th-century instrumental repertoire:

Prokofiev's harrowing First Violin Sonata. The background is vital. In the 1930s, Prokofiev, with an international touring career, was duped into returning to Russia by hollow promises from the Soviets. There he was engulfed by Stalin's Great Terror and saw associates "disappeared" and murdered. The horror left a permanent mark. It effectively characterises the First Violin Sonata and can be heard everywhere in the piece: Osborne's darkly tolling bells and Ibragimova's fragile depiction of sheer icy chill in her hair-raising, otherworldly scales are unforgettable. The performance from these two artists is unremittingly riveting. The beautiful Five Melodies (song transcriptions) and the playful aspects of the delightful Second Sonata offer some relief from the tension of the First.

Michael Tumelty

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