We seem to be living in a golden age of classical violinists. Gidon Kremer. Anne-Sophie Mutter. Hilary Hahn. Gil Shaham. Unfortunately, one of the latest to make it into the pantheon, Lisa Batisahvili, won’t be coming this way for her four concerts with the Boston Symphony Orchestra over the next week. She injured her back and her doctor advised her not to travel.
We do have a fascinating new CD, though, to tide us over. One thing that makes all these violinists worth paying attention to, aside from their playing, is their extraordinary commitment to 20th and 21st century composers of all stripes. Batiashvili has recorded several CDs matching traditional repertory with composers of more recent vintage – Sibelius with Magnus Lindberg, Shostakovich with Arvo Part and Giya Kancheli – and treating all comers with a combination of clarity and passion, as if they’re communicating to each other across the centuries.
Batiashvili, 33, is in a more 19th century mind on her latest DG CD, though it is another unusual dialogue – Johannes Brahms’s Violin Concerto and Clara Schumann’s “Three Romances for Violin and Piano” with Alice Sara Ott . The point seems to be more romantic than egalitarian. Brahms and Schumann were part of the ménage that also included Robert Schumann, Clara’s husband and Brahms’s mentor.
Once Robert got taken off to an asylum, though, the letters between Clara and Johannes get more intense, according to the CD’s excellent liner notes.. But then, alas, Clara and Johannes burned their letters. If only they had posted on Facebook.
We’re better off, though, to be left with their music and Batiashvili, born in the other Georgia, not only makes a lyrical case for both – not that the Brahms piece needs another champion – but she has smart things to say about the two and how we can use the music to enter their emotional world. She has something of a connection to that world because she plays the Stradivarius once owned by Joseph Joachim, the dedicatee of the concerto, on the disc.
“The thought that this violin was once owned by Joachim when he was playing Brahms’s Concerto and Clara Schumann’s Romances is an exciting one. I had the feeling that this historic instrument was also giving me ideas about Brahms’s view on what the work should sound like and bringing me closer to the music and the people concerned.”
Here’s the DG trailer for the CD:
As for the BSO concert, she’ll be replaced by Julian Rachlin, in the only 19th century work on the program. Conductor Alan Gilbert handles the 20th century part of the equation with Dutilleux’s “Métaboles for Orchestra,” Stravinsky’s Symphony in Three Movements, and Ravel’s “La Valse.” Gilbert, by the way, is not one of the conductors in the running for the BSO job as most folks seem to think he and the New York Philharmonic are making beautiful music together.
If you want to brush up your Dutilleux before the concert: