Being apportioned twenty minutes of Alina Ibragimova‘s fleeting, shrinking, almost ephemeral spare time feels like a real honour. This is a violinist who has been playing concertos with professional orchestras since the age of six; who first played London’s Wigmore Hall before she was even a teenager; who was asked to play at Yehudi Menuhin‘s funeral; and, more recently, the violinist who stormed the BBC Proms in 2015 with her performance of Bach’s complete sonatas and partitas. Now, aged 31, she is in demand.
As is perhaps obvious by her enviable CV, music was the first and only choice for Ibragimova. Born in a small town in Russia, much of her time in the country was spent in Moscow at the Moscow Gnesin School. Her family then moved to the UK in 1995, where Alina attended the Yehudi Menuhin School and Royal College of Music.
Since then she has made a name for herself as one of the most intriguing and accomplished talents of the younger generation, increasingly touted in the same bracket of talent and flair as violinists such as Julia Fischer, Hilary Hahn and Nicola Benedetti (with whom, incidentally, she performed Bach’s double violin concerto at the opening ceremony of the Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Paris, conducted by Menuhin himself. He died three months later, and Alina was asked to play the slow movement from the concerto at the service).
We were grateful to Alina for squeezing in a chat from her London home as part of Scottish Ensemble’s Work & Play blog series, letting us know the best and worst of being a musician, whether on tour or at home.
Favourite venue to play
I guess it depends on the music I’m playing, but I do love the Wigmore Hall. That’s one of the firm favourites. I remember loving it when I first played there – I guess I was 11 or 12. You really learn from playing in such an amazing hall.
There’s a certain quality to the sound. For bigger halls, maybe the Concertgebouw [in Amsterdam] – it’s beautiful.
It changes all the time, and also depends on who I’m playing it with, where I’m playing it, what I had for breakfast that day… I really can’t say! I like to think it’s whichever piece I’m learning at that moment. Same goes with a favourite period or composer. I play a lot of Baroque and Classical but I do also really like contemporary.
Best things about being a musician
It’s always about the people I play with. I recently performed with Bernard Haitink and John Eliot Gardiner, which was amazing, and of course there have been some fantastic orchestras. It’s never about the status about the concert – it’s about inspiration from those around you.
Worst things about being a musician
I guess it’s hard to balance things – how much you want to play, how much you want to rest; how much chamber music you want to do, how much orchestral; how much contemporary work; how many new pieces you want to learn. It’s also hard to plan things so far in advance. I find it really hard to know exactly what I’ll want to do on the 26 January 2020, or whatever – it’s hard finding the right balance of elements which allows me to do my best.
Best things about being on tour
Playing. It’s always, always about the love of playing. Many other things feel like a job, sometimes. Waiting in airports and carrying suitcases which mess up your back. That’s when I feel like I’m working. For the rest of my life, I’m not working.
Best things about getting home
I miss my cat! And, having space, actually – I find a lot of my life is crammed into hotel rooms. I relax by zoning out, really – I practice a little (when I feel like it), do some yoga, read and cook. Just really basic things.
Favourite city to visit / live in
Well, first of all, probably my home town in Russia. [I have to ask her what her home town is called before laughing saying ‘OK, I don’t know how to spell that’. A quick Google reveals it to be ‘Polevskoy’ which is NOT what it sounded like.] Otherwise, I like Berlin, but mostly lots of Scandinavian places – Stockholm, Copenhagen. I guess I’m missing snow. English winter is not quite the same as the Russian ones…
In terms of living somewhere else, I dream of going to places of course, but London is so practical – my family’s here, work, I grew up here, I know it really well. I like it here.
If you hadn’t had become a musician…
I have my little dreams, you know… I dream that I’ll one day take painting classes. But so far that’s been my dream for years now.
Alina Ibragimova joins Scottish Ensemble on tour from Thursday 16 – Saturday 18 February 2017. For
tour dates and tickets, go to our Upcoming Concerts page.