Lisa Batiashvili, Johannes Brahms / Clara Schumann

Steve Holtje

By Steve Holtje

on 01.24.13 in Reviews

Johannes Brahms / Clara Schumann

Lisa Batiashvili

It’s not easy to make a new Brahms Violin Concerto recording stand out amid the dozens of competitors, but Batiashvili succeeds here. For one, she plays the rarely heard cadenza by Ferruccio Busoni, and she has juxtaposed the Brahms with the even more rarely heard Three Romances for Violin and Piano, Op. 22 by the great (but unconsummated) love of Brahms’s life, Clara Schumann.

A highly expressive interpretation

The performance of the Brahms is excellent, technically flawless but with enough tempo adjustments to satisfy even the tempestuous composer, making for a highly expressive, Romantic-with-a-capital-R interpretation even as she and Thielemann come in on the quicker end of the spectrum in the slow movement (while avoiding the extremes of Heifetz).

As for Busoni’s cadenza, there’s a reason it’s rarely heard. Its modernism is mildly shocking though hardly scandalous. The opportunity to hear the Schumann pieces played by a violinist of Batiashvili’s class is more of an attraction. Accompanied by pianist Alice Sara Ott, Batiashvili imbues it with all the emotion bestowed on the Brahms, and more, making it clear that these nearly forgotten miniatures are little masterpieces. There’s enough pent-up emotion flowing through these pieces to easily contradict the received image of Clara the primly stern professional widow, and to make this a must-own for violin fans.