Five things you didn’t know about Lisa Batiashvili

Violinist Lisa Batiashvili returns to the LSO on Thursday 13 February to perform Berg's Violin Concerto, conducted by Sir Simon Rattle. Here's five things you might not know about this superlative musician.

She started her career at a young age

Batiashvili began learning the violin from her father at the age of 4 and went on to study at the Hamburg Musikhochschule. When she was just 16, she travelled to Helsinki to become the youngest ever participant in the International Jean Sibelius Violin Competition, competing with exceptional musicians from all over the world. Batiashvili claimed second place, launching her career on the international stage. Previous winners of the competition include Oleg Kagan, Viktoria Mullova and Leonidas Kavakos. She went on to be one of the very first BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artists, made her BBC Proms debut in 2000, and first performed with the LSO in 2005.

She's committed to new music

In 2006, Batiashvili took to the stage as the soloist in the World, European and Austrailian premieres of Magnus Lindberg's Violin Concerto, which was written specifically with Batiashvili in mind. According to the New York Times, 'Batiashvili played the solo violin line with energy and agility, and a tightly focused sound that wove easily in and out of the orchestral fabric, and she seemed unfazed by the line's postmodern shifts from Bartókian angularity to lyrical sweetness' – a fantastic achievement, given that she received the orchestral score only a few days before the performance. She has also commissioned other works, including a solo violin encore from her compatriot Igor Loboda entitled Requiem for Ukraine.

And so is her husband

Batiashvili and her oboist husband, François Leleux, have a long history of performing together and a keen interest in expanding the repertoire for their instruments. In 2007 they commissioned Giya Kancheli to compose a double concerto for violin and oboe. The golden couple premiered the piece, Broken Chant, in London with the BBC Symphony Orchestra. They also gave the US premiere of Thierry Escaich’s Concerto for Violin and Oboe in 2015 and have performed the Bach Double Concerto over two dozen times. '[It's] the first piece we started playing together … It's followed us through our relationship and our life together.'

Lisa Batiashvili and Francois Leleuz

batiashvili-del-gesuShe plays a 'del Gesù' violin from 1739

Violins made by Antonio Guarneri are some of the most sought after in the world. Only around two hundred survive today, and they are considered by most to be the equal of Stradivari, although they often have a darker, more robust, more sonorous tone, making them preferable to some. Guarneri became known as 'del Gesù', (meaning 'of Jesus'), because his labels after 1731 included the religious symbol I.H.S and a Roman cross. Batiashvili says that she was never as comfortable with her previous instruments, which included two Stradivarius violins, as she is with this one, which is on loan to her from an anonymous German collector: ‘These great violins have so much personality … It's almost like meeting a person, [you're] either in conflict or in harmony.’

She is the Artistic Director of the Audi Sommerkonzerte

In 2018, it was announced that Batiashvili would take on the two-year position of Artistic Director of the Audi Summer Concerts in Ingolstadt, Germany, starting in 2019. She presented last year's concert under the motto 'Fantastique!', explaining 'Music has always been a source of inspiration and imagination for humanity. […] In this spirit we are bringing together works, composers and performers that explore this motif from highly diverse points of view.' The programme ranged from Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique and Disney's Fantasia, and included performances from artist including Mariss Jansons, the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, and Batiashvili herself.

Lisa Batiashvili performs Berg's Violin Concerto on Sunday 19 January and Thursday 13 February 2020, alongside Beethoven's only oratorio Christ on the Mount of Olives, conducted by Sir Simon Rattle.

They will also be performing in Paris on Sunday 25 January, Hamburg on Thursday 18 February, Baden-Baden on Thursday 20 February, Bonn on Saturday 22 February and Luxembourg on Sunday 23 February.

Part of Beethoven 250 at the Barbican

This article was originally posted on 9 May 2016 and has been updated.

Related Reading

> An introduction to Beethoven's Christ on the Mount of Olives

> Beethoven 250 timeline