Echoes of Time

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Kancheli,Part,Rachmaninov,Shostakovich
LABELS: DG
WORKS: Shostakovich: Violin Concerto No. 1; plus violin works by Kancheli, Pärt & Rachmaninov
PERFORMER: Lisa Batiashvili (violin), Hélène Grimaud (piano); Bavarian Radio SO/Esa-Pekka Salonen
CATALOGUE NO: 477 9299

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The main item in Lisa Batiashvili’s debut disc for DG is Shostakovich’s First Violin Concerto, which receives a deeply considered interpretation, its emotional narrative vividly etched by both soloist and conductor. The opening ‘Nocturne’ is characterised by a profound sense of unease, with Batiashvili spinning her desolate monologue against a darkly brooding orchestral background.
 
Following this the Scherzo, taken at a blistering pace, sounds almost unhinged with the violin and orchestra engaged in a struggle of titanic proportions. For the ‘Passacaglia’ the mood changes to defiance, the principle theme initially thundered out with tremendous power by the basses, brass and timpani. Batiashvili begins the Cadenza in deep contemplation but quickly ratchets up the tension driving us irresistibly towards the ‘Burlesque’, dispatched here with venom and rhythmic drive.
 
After the trials and tribulations of the Concerto, Kancheli’s V & V, in which the violin and taped voice engage in magically ethereal dialogue with a string orchestra, offers necessary contrast, as does Shostakovich’s charming Lyrical Waltz. Finally we get to hear the first fruits of a highly auspicious duo partnership with the French pianist Hélène Grimaud in atmospheric accounts of Arvo Pärt’s Spiegel im Spiegel and Rachmaninov’s Vocalise.
 
My evident enthusiasm for these performances is tempered by questions about the nature of the recording in the orchestral items which is surely far too resonant for the lean textures of the Concerto. Even more concerning is the artificially enhanced aural perspective of the soloist. In some passages it sounds as if Batiashvili is playing an electric violin rather than her 1727 Venus Stradivarius.
Erik Levi