Critically acclaimed violinist’s latest Deutsche Grammophon album with Chamber Orchestra of Europe and Yannick Nézet-Séguin presents irresistible Prokofiev programme
Profound feeling, insight and intuition flow through Lisa Batiashvili’s artistry to create strikingly individual interpretations. The Georgian-born violinist’s recent Deutsche Grammophon recording of the Tchaikovsky and Sibelius violin concertos, made in partnership with Daniel Barenboim, attracted universal critical acclaim, prompting BBC Music Magazine to conclude: ‘Two greats, played by two greats’. Her next album for the yellow label, set for international release in Spring 2018, offers the equally compelling coupling of Prokofiev’s two violin concertos, recorded live with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe (COE) and Yannick Nézet-Séguin. Batiashvili’s 2017-18 schedule reflects her status among today’s leading instrumentalists, concerto soloist with orchestras from London to New York, Paris to Sydney and this season’s Artist in Residence with the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia.
Recording Prokofiev’s violin concertos, notes Lisa Batiashvili, was the realisation of a cherished dream. Her new album, set down during concerts at Baden-Baden and Toulouse, also includes the composer’s Grand March from The Love for Three Oranges, Grand March from Cinderella and Dance of the Knights from Romeo and Juliet. “The combination of Prokofiev, the COE and Yannick was ideal for me,” she comments. “I think Prokofiev has become more popular in recent years because we see how much of today’s world is present in his music. As someone who emigrated early in life but retained strong connections with my home country, I understand how someone like Prokofiev, who left Russia at the time of the Revolution to find refuge in the West, remained connected to his cultural roots. Prokofiev made this extraordinary mix of both worlds – East and West – in his compositions. He shows us that there are no borders in music, that arts and culture could never reach such heights if artists ignored the wider world beyond home.”
The violinist’s outlook on life and art has been directly informed by the spirit of transnational cooperation and collaboration. Classical music, she suggests, can play an important role in drawing people closer together and healing the fractures that so often divide communities and nations. “We communicate on a different level from politicians,” she says. “People often ask if I think we musicians can change the world by expressing political opinions. Of course we cannot. But I believe we can influence attitudes and invite people to recognise that the more they travel, the more they communicate, the more they listen, the less they are afraid of one another. I feel we have many more possibilities than ever before to make things better, if only we use them in the right way and avoid repeating the mistakes of the past. I disagree with my dear fellow musicians who say that we should just play. Why does being a musician mean that you should not be interested in society and the world around you? I realise as I get older that the humanitarian side of life becomes more important.”
Lisa Batiashvili’s way of making music, alive to an infinite range of tonal colours and expressive nuances, has gained in recent years from close collaborations with conductors such as Daniel Barenboim, Sir Simon Rattle, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Christian Thielemann and Sir Antonio Pappano. “They have so much to say that you never feel you’re going along to give your one-woman show,” she observes. “When you are lucky enough to have that experience, where this special energy and conversation takes place on stage, then you know why you’re making music. If I can say I became someone as a performer, then it was through collaborating with these remarkable people. It’s very difficult to describe in words – you can only really experience that profound musical conversation in performance.”
Musical conversation is key to Anders Hillborg’s Violin Concerto No.2, which the Swedish composer wrote specially for Lisa Batiashvili. She gave the 25-minute score’s world premiere in October 2016 with the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra and Sakari Oramo, and subsequently introduced the work to Leipzig. Batiashvili is set to give the work’s UK premiere with the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Oramo at London’s Barbican Centre on Wednesday 29 November 2017, five days after presenting its Finnish premiere at the Helsinki Music Centre with the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra and Hannu Lintu. “Hillborg is such a fascinating composer who writes genuinely good music,” she comments. “He knows how to create melodies that stay in the memory. I’m looking forward to performing this wonderful, rich piece again and know that it will be fun!”
Lisa Batiashvili turns to Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto to open her term as Artist in Residence with the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome. She will give three performances of the work with the Accademia’s orchestra and its Music Director Antonio Pappano in December. She returns to Italy’s capital city to perform under the baton of Manfred Honeck in February 2018, and closes her residency in May with François Leleux.
“I am so lucky to have been Artist in Residence with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra last season and now with the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia this season,” Batiashvili reflects. “I have an incredible connection with the Santa Cecilia musicians. This is not only one of the world’s greatest orchestras but also one of the most friendly and open-hearted groups of people. Antonio Pappano and I get on very well. We performed the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto together at the Concertgebouw last year and I’ve rarely experienced it done with such lightness and grace. The piece reminded me of Mozart for the first time, which was so special and so true to Tchaikovsky’s intentions.”
Other highlights of Lisa Batiashvili’s season include three performances at the Sydney Opera House of Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No.2 with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, and an account of the same work with the conductorless Orpheus Chamber Orchestra at Carnegie Hall’s Stern Auditorium in March “This will be my debut with the Orpheus and I’m really excited about it,” she notes. “The Prokofiev is so hard to do, even with a conductor!”
For Lisa Batiashvili, the pursuit of the highest artistic standards is richly complemented by life beyond the concert hall. “Having young children keeps me grounded,” she explains. “It puts everything into perspective and gives you fresh energy. This mode of switching from mother to musician is not always easy but it’s very rewarding. Even if I did not have a young family, I would want a life outside the world of music. My parents are both musicians, and I naturally started violin because I watched my dad playing and teaching. They supported me and made the massive step of leaving Georgia for Germany. At the same time, their attention was not on my ‘career’; rather, they wanted to make the experience as good as possible. Their support helped me feel that I never had to do things or be the centre of attention. My first goal has always been the quality of the music-making and then to work on projects with the people who inspire me and are my musical heroes. And that is what I am so fortunate to do.”