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Beautiful but uninspiring...
on 20 October 2012
I am aware that this review will be unpopular as the dissenting voice among so much praise, but I hope it will be of help to those with similar tastes to mine.
Lisa Batiashvili is unquestionably a fine violinist with a rich and beautiful tone and neither her performance of the Sibelius nor the Lindberg Concerti contain an ugly sound. The playing is lyrical, refined and the phrasing is exquisite. Unlike a previous reviewer I found no great problem with the structure of the performance, indeed everything is impeccable.
So, what's the problem? For me it's exactly that: I'm looking for that cool, Nordic quality, something a little more edgy, the grit in the oyster. To my ear this is modern, sanitised musicianship, where beauty of sound is all and probing musicianship is sacrificed at the altar of technical perfection. That is not to say it is without merit, or that Batiashvili does not have something valid to say about this music; only that it did not appeal to this reviewer. Those who agree might try Ida Haendel with Berglund conducting the Bournemouth Symphony or (controversially, I know) Vengerov with Barenboim - a little over-dramatic in places, I accept, but far more interesting than Oramo's rather ordinary accompaniment. I'm even more inclined to go for Perlman, though I'm not usually a fan of his, simply because I hear more emotional depth in his account with the Pittsburgh Orchestra and Previn than I do with Batiashvili and Oramo.
Her reading of the Lindberg Concerto is perhaps more successful; it was composed for her and is a far less gritty piece anyway; and, of course I have no other recording to compare it to. That said, I found Lindberg's Concerto disappointing after works such as Kraft, with its altogether more modernist language, or the more congenial Concertos for Piano and Cello. For me there were too many clichés, too much compromise with the post-Romantic need for harmonic consonance and easy-listening gestures. If you like this performance of the Sibelius, you'll probably like the Lindberg concerto, which may be for some a way into contemporary music that often can seem distant and uninviting.