Violinist Lisa Batiashvili’s previous CDs on Sony combined traditional repertoire concertos with less familiar works, Sibelius with Lindberg, and Beethoven with Tsintsadze. Her playing has always struck me as deeply mature and thoughtful, and her new recording of Shostakovich’s dark, brooding First Violin Concerto, on an album called Echoes of Time (DG 4779299), is one of the most engrossing musical experiences I have had so far this year. Her reading of the lengthy opening Nocturne emphasises the movement’s elegiac pensiveness, and the ensuing Scherzo has an energy and momentum that manages to both shock by contrast with the Nocturne, and yet not preempt the violent grotesquerie of the final Burlesque. The concerto has, unusually, four movements, and between the Scherzo and the Burlesque Shostakovich places one of his greatest statements, the huge Passacaglia and Cadenza that are the emotional heart of the work—and which seem to inhabit the same landscape as Britten’s slightly earlier Passacaglia from Peter Grimes. Batiashvili gives a convincingly profound performance of this deeply melancholy music, all the more telling due to the hint of respite she permits. The Burlesque is all that it needs to be, a bludgeoning dissipation of the accumulated emotional weight of the previous half-hour of music. There are few greater concertos than this, and Batiashvili’s performance more than convinces. She chooses to fill the CD with four much shorter pieces, by Kancheli, Shostakovich again, Pärt, and Rachmaninov—it certainly gives value for money, and the works provide contrast, but in the shadow of the Concerto they seem, well, small beer.
Echoes Of Time Shostakovich Violin Concerto 1