Violinist Lisa Batiashvili returns to the LSO on Thursday 9 June to perform Bartók's First Violin Concerto, conducted by Daniel Harding. 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 aged 4 and went on to study at the Hamburg Musikhochschule. Aged only 16, she travelled to Helsinki to become the International Jean Sibelius Violin Competition’s youngest–ever participant, competing with exceptional musicians from all over the world. Batiashvili claimed second place in the competition, 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 Bartokian 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 Lobada for solo violin, entitled Requiem for Ukraine.
And so is her husband
Batiashvili and her oboist husband, François Leleuz, 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.'
She plays a 'del Gesu' from 1739, Cozio 61377
These instruments, made by Antonio Guardneri, are some of the most sought after in the world. Only around two hundred survive 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. 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.’
Last year, she was Musical America's 'Instrumentalist of the Year'
And she's in good company. Other 2015 honourees include Gianandrea Noseda, John Luther Adams, Peter Sellars and Christine Goerke. She has also been awarded two ECHO Klassik Awards, Germany’s major classical music award, and a MIDEM Classical Award (formerly the International Classical Music Awards). Musical America said that it was Batiashvili's 'passionate but meticulous musicality' and ability to allow the notes to speak for themselves that made their choice so easy.
Lisa Batiashvili performs Bartók Violin Concerto No 1 on Thursday 9 June 2016 at the Barbican Centre. Daniel Harding will also conduct Dvorák Symphony No 8 and his overture to Othello. Tickets are available online and by calling the Barbican Box Office on 020 7638 8891.