September 2004

Young violinist Elisabeth Batiashvili will premiere with the Berlin Philharmonic

An interview about her development and her career plans

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Young violinist Elisabeth Batiashvili will premiere with the Berlin Philharmonic

An interview about her development and her career plans

by Nancy Chapple - Photos: Mark Harrison/BBC Music Magazine

Elisabeth Batiashvilli

Elisabeth Batiashvili will premiere with the Berlin Philharmonic on Oct. 7th (repeated on the 8th and 9th) with the Beethoven Violin Concerto, a work she has performed several times, including at the BBC Proms in 2000. "Sometimes soloist and conductor work through the concerto in quite a lot of detail; sometimes you just meet on stage, knowing inside it just can't go wrong." Since she has worked with conductor Osmo Vänskä since she was 18, she feels particularly confident that he will understand her intentions and they will work well together. She is excited to have the opportunity to play with what she called "the world's best orchestra". Given the rave reviews she's been garnering around the world in the past few years - "mesmerising display of energy and warmth", "breathtaking fire and grace", "in absolute command of both the music and her audience", "effortless virtuosity" - Berlin is also eagerly anticipating her début.

She comes from a musical family - her mother a pianist, and her father a violinist. In fact, he was her first teacher. It was the string quartets she heard rehearsed in her home that led her to decide at the age of 4: "I absolutely have to learn to play violin." She describes the active concert life in Tiflis in the 1980's, with many musicians who had studied at the Moscow Conservatory. When she was 12, her parents moved with her to Hamburg, escaping war and unrest in Georgia. As they didn't know a word of German, the sudden change to a completely different country was quite difficult for them, but Lisa seems to have adjusted well, enjoying school, quickly finding violin teachers who understood her gift. The move to Munich when she was 15 was another major change ("At first I couldn't believe how different the two cities were!"), but again she felt lucky to be in a good place.

She has a special affinity for Finnish composers and conductors, probably dating from the surprise of winning a second prize at Helsinki's Sibelius Competition when she was 16, the youngest participant. She had entered at the urging of her teacher, the well-known Munich violin pedagogue Ana Chumachenco, who stressed how important it was to work towards a goal. Batiashvili says the time of preparing for the competition was when she knew "I'm going to become a violinist". The publicity she received after the competition was for her the starting point "where it all originated", even though things didn't change overnight. She describes how she observed how differently Chumachenco works with each member of her violin class. "I learned to trust myself, to play independently. I learned freedom." They continue to see each other every 2-3 weeks, and she calls her if she has a musical problem she doesn't know how to resolve. "She's an incredible person and an incredible musician."

Elisabeth Batiashvilli

When asked whether she plays contemporary music, she answered "not yet, not by living composers", but described the project of finding a composer who will compose a violin concerto just for her. In fact, French composer Nicolas Bacri is in the process of writing a double concerto for her and her husband, oboist Francois Leleux.

Just two months ago, she became the mother of a daughter. It has been an overwhelming emotional time. But her performances during her pregnancy - when she was "carrying extra responsibility inside her" - brought her incredible joy. Leaving a self-aware and yet eager impression, she described how the experience of performing has changed over the years. "Every performance is different, and I'm sure it will change once again." Her emotional maturity was also clear when she agreed that the high expectations around her create a lot of pressure, but that you just can't let it get you down: "The world is such a big place. Not everything depends on whether on a given day I play worse than I did at a previous performance."

When asked whether it's annoying that critics always write how young and yet mature she is (she just turned 25), she said she's glad she will no longer be seen as a child prodigy - and that what counts is what she will do in the future.

She looks forward to playing more chamber music (she loved the opportunity a few years ago to attend the great American chamber music festivals in Marlboro and Ravinia), recording CDs, playing with her husband and with chamber orchestras - and also having more time to practice, prepare and learn new repertoire. Her Berlin début will be followed by debuts with the London Symphony Orchestra in December 2004 and the New York Philharmonic in March 2005, both conducted by Lorin Maazel. She describes this year as "the most important one so far."



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