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Notes and Editorial Reviews
(arr. T. Batiashvili)
Lisa Batiashvili (vn, cond); Georgian CO;
German CP Bremen
SONY 733400 (56:35)
Lisa Batiashvili has supplemented Beethoven’s Violin Concerto with six of 15
miniatures by the Georgian composer Sulkhan Tsintsadze, miniatures that Batiashvili’s father, Tamas, arranged for violin and strings. Strongly rhythmic, with brash percussive effects, the first of these, “Mzkemsuri,” brings tart timbres that evoke the exotic world of Bartók’s
Rumanian Folk Dances
. The second, “Suliko,” with its indolently rocking rhythms and harmonies, might pass as a Mexican interlude. “Lale” begins energetically, with the strings tossing motives back and forth; but it surrounds a soft central section. “Indi-Mindi” follows in the same general pattern. “Tzin Tzarko” opens with a plaintive statement by the solo violin, and turns even darker and more brooding when the strings enter. Here, the violin plays an ethereal figuration that recalls James Newton Howard’s atmospheric score (with Hilary Hahn as solo violinist) for the movie,
. For the most part, though, the solo violin doesn’t play a virtuosic role in the miniatures; the rhythms generally swirl in the orchestra and the violin supplies elfin commentary to both these passages and the more lyrical episodes. “Satchidao” brings the set to a conclusion in a Gypsy-like dance.
In view of the imposing symphonic stature of Beethoven’s Concerto and her relative youth, it may seem surprising that Batiashvili chose to conduct the orchestra as well as to play the solo. But the opening tutti, strongly percussive and marked by hair-raising dynamic contrasts, suggests that she wanted to make her own statement. Compared with the orchestral part, her solo on the 1709 Engleman Stradivari sounds commanding to be sure, but rich, lithe, and silvery as well, with each register strongly characterized—but nary a hint of roughness. Her detailed exposition of the accompaniment, enhanced by recorded sound of exceptional transparency, reveals detailed interactions between the winds and strings and a wealth of motivic interplay that might otherwise go without highlighting. The overall result, though imposing, never sounds simply massive, because in the most heavily orchestrated passages, definition remains high; yet the trees never obscure the forest. (This kind of playing and musical direction sounds strongly reminiscent of the bracing transformation period instrumentalists have worked on concertos by Vivaldi.) If, in the first movement of the Concerto, the soloist risks slipping into the role of commentator on matters too weighty to be entrusted to a single violin, Batiashvili throughout asserts her dominating instrumental and musical vision, never allowing the violin to be miniaturized—or even subordinated. And individual touches abound: for example, she pauses here and there to set up a passage, enhancing the dramatic impact by the most economical of means. And she reveals her purely violinistic command in Kreisler’s cadenzas.
The slow movement elicits from Batiashvili violinist and Batiashvili conductor a similar strong-mindedness. It never grows sleepy, though her playing of the middle section offers hushed, breathless reflection of great profundity and sensitivity. And she reveals the importance of each and every note in each and every passage, no matter how mechanical it might look on the printed page. Her playing and direction in the finale suggest raw energy (reminiscent of that in the opening movement) rather than bucolic revelry. In her strong-mindedness, Batiashvili comes perhaps closer to the dynamism and drive of Isabella Faust, among rising stars who have recently recorded the work by rising stars (with Ji?í B?lohlávek and the Prague Philharmonia on Harmonia Mundi 901944, 32:4) than to the more relaxed elegance of Vadim Repin with Riccardo Muti, Vienna Philharmonic on Deutsche Grammophon 000966302, 31:4.
Those who lament the large-scale playing of violinists of the Golden Age may find in Batiashvili’s a fresh edition of many of the characteristics (yet, perhaps notably, without the immediate identifiability) that seem to have lamentably disappeared into the recorded past—and now engineers can capture them in recorded sound fully worthy of the performance. Urgently recommended to those listeners and, in fact, to all others, as well.
FANFARE: Robert Maxham
Works on This Recording
Concerto for Violin in D major, Op. 61 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Lisa Batiashvili (Violin)
Georgian Chamber Orchestra,
German Chamber Philharmonic,
German Chamber Philharmonic Bremen
Written: 1806; Vienna, Austria
Miniatures (6) for Violin and Orchestra by Sulkhan Tsintsadze
Lisa Batiashvili (Violin)
German Chamber Philharmonic Bremen
Notes: Arranged by Tamas Batiashvili
Average Customer Review: ( 3 Customer Reviews )
Beethoven never had it so good January 15, 2016
By Alec Nesbitt (Larkspur, CO) See All My Reviews
"This recording brought Lisa Batiashvili to my attention. Since first hearing it, I've marveled at all of her work, now convinced that the Beethoven Concerto definitely is not a one-time phenomenon. She is a musician of the rarest sensitivity, yet her attacks are robust, self-assured and uncompromising. Her credentials are impeccable, her sophistication as it ought to be in our complex global universe. She stands up for Ukrainian rights even as she breaks your heart with her profound understanding of Beethoven's intentions. On this same disc are the six "Miniatures" of Tsintsadze, a Georgian composer championed by Lisa's father. Far less often than "once in a generation" does a star of her brightness flash across the musical firmament. Compare her to all of the greats and marvel. I've done that, watching her dispatch Prokofiev and Shostakovich, Part and Lindberg. She has a connection, through one of her teachers, that stretches back to David Oistrakh. Listen to her carefully because, henceforth, she's the one to watch."
Glorious!! September 7, 2015
By Paula C. (Brooklyn, NY) See All My Reviews
"I heard this recording tonight on WQXR (NY) and it positively blew me away. Like the other reviewer of this recording, I've heard recordings by many of the greats, including Menuhin, Heifitz and Perlman, but Batiashvili's performance was simply sublime, and is now the one against which I will measure all others. The fact that she is the conductor as well as the soloist makes her performance even more incredible. Utterly divine!"
Outstanding August 31, 2013
By Eugene P. (San Francisco, CA) See All My Reviews
"Beautiful violin playing. Now my favorite version, along with Shneiderhan, of the Beethoven, and I've heard Menuhin, Heifetz, Milstein, Perlman, Grumiaux, Szeryng, Swensen, Mutter, Jansen. Looking forward to her future recordings."