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Lisa Batiashvili (violin)
Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra; Georgian Philharmonic Orchestra/Nikoloz
rec. 2019, RBB Großer Sendesaal, Berlin; Lenř Records, Tbilisi
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 4838586
I’m sure that this recording needs no recommendation; it’s sure to sell
and sell. Take one of DG’s top young artists on a journey around
middle-of-the road repertoire and it’s bound to be a runaway success. In this
case, the journey theme has rather more substance than the recent CDs on which
Daniil Trifonov was sent on an imaginary journey in search of Rachmaninov –
all the more artificial because the many photographs were clearly taken on
a preserved steam railway in the UK, with the artist sitting in an
ex-British Rail carriage. Fortunately, the musical content was very much better
than the hype. (4835335: Recommended –
– Recording of the Month –
I’m surprised to see that we appear never to have reviewed its successor -
Arrival 4836617. Let me simply say at this late stage that both
these Rachmaninov recordings vie with the very best.
On the new recording of City Lights, Lisa Batiashvili and Nikoloz
Rachveli, the latter making an auspicious recording debut, aided and
abetted by a number of other artists, including another young star of the
Universal records stable, Miloš Karadaglić (guitar), present one piece from
each of the cities that have meant something to Batiashvili, each specified
in the details below. If the link is
a little tenuous – I wouldn’t have associated Bach with Munich, and I’m not
sure that the arrangement of his music works well – the result is a sort of gala
version of BBC Radio 2’s long-standing Friday Night is Music Night, where light classics, musicals, film and crossover music provide a
Another analogy would be the Salzburg Summer Concerts, the most
recent of which, from 2019, I enjoyed on Sony 19075943542 –
review. There’s no video equivalent
of the new DG, on DVD or blu-ray, no live audience, and it wasn’t all
recorded at the same time, but there is a real sense of occasion about it,
with the young soloist and conductor as exciting as the combination of Yuja
Wang and Gustavo Dudamel on the Sony. Overall, however, the tone is
different; significantly, Dudamel chose the allegro con fuoco
finale of the New World Symphony, whereas Batiasvili and Rachveli
have gone with the largo second movement. Nor is there a centre piece
here to match the Rhapsody in Blue from Wang and Dudamel which
brings the house down.
I suspect that the target audience is
also very different from another exciting
recent release by a young star violinist, Alina Ibragimova in the two
Shostakovich Violin Concertos, with the State Academic Symphony Orchestra
of Russia ‘Evgeny Svetlanov’ and Vladimir Jurowski (Hyperion CDA68313). I
suspect, too, that the Shostakovich will be a more frequent visitor to my
speakers, but that’s certainly not to decry the DG, which I enjoyed very
One thing which the new recording shares with the Trifonov is
that the booklet contains lots of photographs of the star performer.
From the way that her first name is emblazoned in a very large font, it
looks as if DG seem to be promoting ‘Lisa’ as a one-name phenomenon, as Nigel
Kennedy was for a time. The Hyperion cover may be more apposite to the
if the DG hype sells the CD, that's surely OK, too.
Batiashvili recorded the more popular of the two Shostakovich concertos
as her debut for DG (4779299 -
review), but, as fine as that is, I wish she had also included No.2.
Different as the two are, the failure to pair them, as on the new Hyperion
was something of a missed opportunity. The new Hyperion becomes my
I imagine that there
will be those who also think the lighter tone of the
new album a missed opportunity. The thought did cross my mind, but the
opening sequence from Charlie Chaplin films caught my attention from the
start, to the extent that I could have wished for more. It may well – it
should – lead listeners to other recordings of his film music, such as the
CPO restoration of the music for Modern Times (7772862 –
review), two snatches of which are performed on the DG album.
There’s a recording by Carl Davis on his own label of the City Lights music (CDC015). Also, a selection of Chaplin’s film
music arranged for violin and piano on Warner (Philippe Quint and Marta
Aznavoorian 93624901808 –
review). Bruce McCollum’s review copy of the Warner seems to have come without booklet;
can be found on
Naxos Music Library. Best of all, perhaps John Wilson might be persuaded to record an
anthology of the Chaplin films, to match his first-class recording of MGM musicals (That’s Entertainment Warner 0288452: Recording of the Month –
review). That's if he can be dragged away from his new
enterprises for Chandos, including a brand-new very fine account of
Respighi's Roman Trilogy (CHSA5261, SACD, review forthcoming).
Batiashvili's short sequence of music by Piazzólla is another appetite-whetter; here,
too, I could have foregone some of the other music for something longer. It
would have been good to have had a recording of his Four Seasons (Estaciones Porteńas) not attached to yet another recording of the
Vivaldi, as it is on a new recording of the two works from Arabella Steinbacher
and the Munich Chamber Orchestra (forthcoming as I write from Pentatone).
On the basis of what we have here, I’m sure that Batiashvili and Rachveli
could give us a fine account of the Estaciones.
The Piazzólla and several other works are performed in arrangements for
violin and orchestra, mostly by the conductor. These are attractive and tasteful;
in fact, Batiashvili and Rachveli largely avoid the temptation to offer
Mantovani-shimmering-strings interpretations – there’s a place for that in
my affection, but Mantovani himself largely filled it. They do, however,
lay on the sentiment fairly thick in the adagio for the New World Symphony. I wouldn’t want to hear the whole symphony
played that way, but it sits pretty well in the context of this CD.
The Bach arrangement, too, is pretty slurpy – I doubt if JSB would
recognise it as his work any more than Albinoni would recognise ‘his’ Adagio which, if it ever had anything to do with that composer,
it ran through on stilts and was
completely overlaid by Giazzotto who ‘discovered’ it. Mercifully, this Bach
arrangement is shorter than the ‘Albinoni’ pastiche.
It’s perfectly in keeping with the next track,
however, Michel Legrand’s Paris Violin, that it receives a tender performance,
while the Piazzólla also receives a suitably smoochy performance, albeit one
with some suitable violin pyrotechnics.
As well as the familiar items, there’s plenty here that’s new. I don’t
recall having heard the Siegel, the Koncz or the Kancheli mélange.
There’s plenty of room for showy fiddle-playing in the Koncz – a very
different lark from Vaughan Williams’, a very lively bird with a distinct Zigeuner accent; think of Enescu’s Romanian Rhapsody No.1.
Batiashvili rises to the occasion with the aplomb of the young Yehudi
Menuhin or Jascha Heifetz. Actually, for my money, that piece would have made a
better finale to the programme.
There’s just one other current recording of the Siegel, in its original
vocal dress, and no other that I can trace of the Koncz. Even the
Strauss doesn't get too many outings.
As well as arranging many of the pieces and performing as pianist and
conductor, Nikoloz Rachveli is the composer of the final sequence of
adaptations of the music of fellow Georgian Giya Kancheli. I’m sorry that I can’t relate to this
music, which juxtaposes violin
tenderness and orchestral noise in a way that makes little musical sense to me.
It’s rather like ending a glorious fireworks display with a couple of flash
bangs; it certainly doesn’t tempt me to explore more of Kancheli’s music,
though his haunting piece V&V on the earlier recording with the
Shostakovich concerto does sound intriguing.
I’m sure, however, that we
shall be hearing more of this versatile young man in many roles. Born in
1979, he is the Music Director and Principal Conductor of The Georgian
Philharmonic Orchestra, but he seems equally at home with the items
recorded with the Berlin Philharmonic – and they don’t take to any
conductor lightly. We know that Batiashvili can shine in more demanding
repertoire; now I’d like to hear Rachveli do the same.
Reservations apart, this may not be a great recording but it is a very
enjoyable release which deserves to sell well.
Contents CITY MEMORIES Charlie CHAPLIN (1889-1977), José Padilla SÁNCHEZ, Leo DANIDERFF
(1878-1943) The Terry Theme from ‘Limelight’ / La Violetera from ‘City Lights’
/ Je cherche aprčs Titine from ‘Modern Times’ / Awakening from
‘Limelight’ / Theme from ‘Modern Times’1 [7:15]
MUNICH Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750) Ich ruf zu dir, BWV639 (arr. Anders Hillborg for Violin Solo and
PARIS Michel Jean LEGRAND (1932-2019) Paris Violon1
BERLIN Ralph Maria SIEGEL (1911-1972) Ich hab’ noch einen Koffer in Berlin
(arr. Nikoloz Rachveli for Violin, Trumpet, Piano and
HELSINKI Traditional Evening Song (arr. Jarkko Riihimäki for Violin and
VIENNA Johann STRAUSS I (1804-1849) Furioso Galopp, Op.114 (adapt. Nikoloz Rachveli for Violin and
ROME Ennio MORRICONE (b.1928) Love Theme from Cinema Paradiso (arr. Nikoloz Rachveli for Violin, Cello and Orchestra)1 [4:21]
BUENOS AIRES Astor PIAZZÓLLA (1921-1992) Adios Nonino
/ Vuelvo al sur / Buenos Aires Hora Cero (arr. Nikoloz Rachveli for Violin, Guitar, Piano and Orchestra)2 [7:01]
NEW YORK Antonín DVOŘÁK (1841-1904) Symphony No.9 in e minor, Op.95 ‘From the New World’ II. Largo (adapt. Tamas Batiashvili for Violin
and Orchestra)1 [4:51]
Katie MELUA (b.1984) No Better Magic2 [5:45]
BUCHAREST Stephan KONCZ (b.1984) The Lark2 [3:09]
TBILISI Nikoloz RACHVELI (b.1979) Herio Bichebo
/ Tovlis Panteli / Lament / Styx (Based on
Themes by Giya Kancheli) [10:16]
Lisa Batiashvili (violin)1,2 Nikoloz Rachveli (piano)1,2, Till Brönner (trumpet), Maximilian
Hornung (cello)1 Miloš Karadaglić (guitar), Zurab Melua (guitar), Tim Harries (bass), Katie
Melua (vocals), Nikoloz Kirvalidze, David Nozadze, David Abesadze (vocals)2 Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra/Nikoloz Rachveli1 rec. October 2019, RBB Großer Sendesaal, Berlin1 Georgian Philharmonic Orchestra/Nikoloz Rachveli2 rec. 28 November 2019, Lenř Records, Tbilisi2