Violin Concertos Nos 1 & 2; Cinderella – Grand Waltz*; The Love for Three Oranges – March*; Romeo and Juliet – Dance of the Knights*
*(arr. T Batiashvili)
Lisa Batiashvili (violin); Chamber Orchestra of Europe/Yannick Nézet-Séguin
DG 4798529 59:49 mins
We are well past the days when rough-and-ready accounts of Prokofiev’s two violin concertos were the norm. Lisa Batiashvili’s new recording may be added to the now more than a handful of technically immaculate recordings of these inspired and beautiful works. It makes a less than happy start, though, with an ill-conceived arrangement (by Batiashvili’s father, Tamás) of Dance of the Knights. Though fairly well established as an encore piece arranged for violin and piano, as are the other two ‘lollipops’ included on this album, it hardly follows that its effectiveness is increased by adding virtually the full weight of Prokofiev’s original orchestration: certainly, pitting a solo violin against grand stomping heavy brass and bass drum is ludicrous.
This ham-fisted arrangement, however, acts as something of a foil to Prokofiev’s ethereal scoring of Violin Concerto No. 1 that follows. Both this and the Second Concerto get well-polished accounts, Batiashvili presenting attractively singing tone, with no ugly sound from either her or the orchestra under Yannick Nézet-Séguin. But what I miss from both is any sense of engagement, let alone a sense of fresh discovery in their performances: like an oft-travelled car journey, everything is smoothly and understatedly negotiated, with barely any rubato in the established tempo to relish the passing view. There is no sense of rapt enchantment in the First Violin Concerto, though the wonderful orchestration at the end of the first movement comes across well; and any sense of menace or excitement in the finale of the Second Concerto is seriously under-characterised.