Lisa Batiashvili’s new album features evocative music inspired by late Romantic literature and great virtuosos of the past – Karol Szymanowski’s first violin concerto, Ernest Chausson’s poetry and works by César Franck and Claude Debussy
“What would human life be,” asks Lisa Batiashvili, “without these various emotions and feelings that we believe cannot be shared with anyone? His new album celebrates the art of hiding, of keeping private passions under the surface until they explode. Secret Love Letters, scheduled for release on Deutsche Grammophon on August 19, 2022, sees the Georgian-born German violinist explore some of the most romantic music ever written. In this first recording with an American orchestra, he was joined by the Philadelphia Orchestra and the inspiring music director Yannick Nézet-Séguin – with whom he performed on many occasions – as well as the young Georgian pianist Giorgi Gigashvili. Together they embark on a journey that covers everything from forbidden love to romance seen from the perspective of old age.
“There are so many hidden messages in music, things that can’t be put into words,” says Lisa. “One thing that clearly unites the four pieces I chose for the album, by Chausson, Debussy, Franck and Szymanowski. It is the message of love that is in music, in many different parts and colors, and most in that message is secret and intimate. His longtime partner Nézet-Séguin agrees: “One of my favorite quotes in life is that music begins where words end. What is special about music is that it allows us to say things that sometimes we can’t even express ourselves.
At the heart of Secret Love Letters is Karol Szymanowski’s First Violin Concerto, the Polish composer’s dreamlike meditation on the imagery of Noc majowa (“May Night”), a poem by Tadeusz Micinski and the creative starting point of a dazzling mark with passion and sensuality. . The composition was written in Ukraine during World War I and was first performed in Warsaw in November 1922. It was legally and morally forbidden,” said Lisa. “It’s a dance between eroticism and compassion, between a dream world and a harsh reality.” Paul Kochanski, for whom the work was written, gave the US premiere with the Philadelphia Orchestra in 1924 at the historic Academy of Music in Philadelphia, the location where Lisa’s performance was recorded nearly a century earlier.
Szymanowski’s one-movement concerto finds a perfect complement to Ernest Chausson’s Poème for violin and orchestra, composed in 1896 during a summer stay in Florence. Chausson originally intended to call his lyric piece The Song of Victorious Love. Poème’s rejected title and much of its atmosphere come from a short story by the Russian author Ivan Turgenev, who himself fell in love with the famous mezzo-soprano Pauline Viardot and formed a lasting threesome with singer and her husband. Poème was inspired and dedicated to one of the great artists of the time, the Belgian violinist Eugène Ysaÿe.
Framing Szymanowski and Chausson in Secret Love Letters are the works of Franck and Debussy. Like Poème, Franck’s sublime Sonata in A major for violin and piano has a link to the great Ysaÿe: the composer gave it to the violinist and his wife Louise Bourdeau as a wedding present. Reflecting the still strong desires and emotions of an elderly composer, the piece apparently shocked Franck’s conservative wife but has captivated audiences since its world premiere in Brussels in December 1886. In piano is Giorgi Gigashvili, the recent recipient of a scholarship from the Lisa Batiashvili Foundation, a non-profit organization created by the violinist to support outstanding young artists living in Georgia.
Accompanying Lisa on piano in her final music selection for Secret Love Letters was none other than Yannick Nézet-Séguin himself. Debussy’s Beau Soir was originally composed as a song, with words by the novelist and critic Paul Bourget, and its beautiful description of an idyllic sunset inspired the legendary violinist Jascha Heifetz to create a sensuous arrangement for violin and piano. “Debussy is a messenger of the most magical atmosphere, fantasy and purity imaginable,” says Batiashvili.