Apollonian: The violinist Lisa Batiashvili
The public just loves success stories. Like that of Lisa Batiashvili, a striking phenomenon among the younger generation of female violinists on the international concert scene. Born in Georgia and now based in Munich, she started playing aged two, on a one-sixteenth size violin with just one string. But still! She first took the stage at four, enrolled as a student at Hamburg’s conservatoire at twelve, and won the Sibelius Competition in Helsinki at sixteen.
She then joined an astonishing phalanx of young female violinists which suddenly popped up on the world’s stages. Suddenly everyone was talking about Julia Fischer and Hilary Hahn, Chloë Hanslip and Alina Pogostkina, Sarah Chang and Baiba Skride, Janine Jansen, Patricia Kopatchinskaja, Arabella Steinbacher and, of course, Lisa Batiashvili. All young, all good-looking and all highly talented: a perfect media storm.
The phalanx kept on growing, and with it general amazement at so much talent so young. How can a twelve year-old already understand the knottier Beethoven and interpret it adequately? How does a teenager manage to conquer Bach’s Sonatas and Partitas – the Everest of the violin literature – without oxygen, and regain musical base camp unscathed? Telling people that, besides great gifts, it takes propitious circumstances, discipline and yet more discipline, and above all application – the composer Jacques Ibert hit the nail on the head when he defined the ratio for work of genius as 1 per cent inspiration to 99 per cent perspiration – that was just too prosaic an explanation to satisfy anyone.
Lisa Batiashvili is now in her mid-thirties and an established artist, at the top of her profession: a great violinist, though not, thank goodness, a star violinist. Stars may be celebrities, but it is the great violinists who are respected for their attitude to their art and their profession. Lisa Batiashvili comes from a highly musical family, which gave her a head start. She has great talent herself, to which she adds unstoppable enthusiasm for music and her instrument. That laid the foundations for her exceptionally successful international career to date.
But when you see her in concert and hear her play, follow her interviews and, not least, come to know her political views, you become aware of a personality who, on top of amazing musical abilities, understands the realities of our time and has not lost sight of the right relationship between art and life. With her natural appearance and lively sensibility, the clarity of both her music-making and her views, she has something almost Apollonian about her: harmonious, poised, tempered. As many as fifteen years ago, the pianist Alfred Brendel paid tribute to her artistic maturity, after hearing her play Beethoven’s Violin Concerto: »Imagination and control, warmth and authority, strength and flexibility – all were in perfect balance.«
Bamberg will be able to hear Lisa Batiashvili during a »long night of chamber music« next March, including Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s string sextet »Souvenir de Florence«. She will also play Dvořák’s Violin Concerto in A minor, as well as double concertos for violin and oboe by Johann Sebastian Bach and Thierry Escaich, allowing us to marvel at the sound of her Guarneri del Gesù, whose character she has described almost as if talking about herself: »This instrument can just do everything. And it’s not temperamental. It’s just there, so I can concentrate entirely on the music.«