Secret Love Letters

Lisa Batiashvili embraces the theme of secret love on her aptly titled album Secret Love Letters. “The biggest secret I had as a child was connected to the deepest and strongest human emotion: love,” the Georgian violinist tells Apple Music. “In kindergarten, I fell in love with a four-year-old boy and my stomach ached and leapt when I looked at him. I feared telling anyone, even my mother, who I worried would dismiss the emotions I felt so strongly because I was so young.” Instead, she turned to her instrument as her private confidant, through which she expressed her innermost feelings. But instead of immediately plunging the listener into this potentially turbulent world of suppressed longing, here Batiashvili eases us in with the Violin Sonata in A Major by César Franck. Written as a wedding present for the Belgian violin virtuoso Eugène Ysaÿe, the sublime, four-movement work manages to be at once restrained and emotionally unfettered. Accompanying Batiashvili is Giorgi Gigashvili, who won a scholarship from the Lisa Batiashvili Foundation in 2021. Following the sonata is the Violin Concerto No. 1 by the Polish composer Karol Szymanowski. The highly charged work expresses, says Batiashvili, the composer’s secret feelings for another man. In it, Szymanowski—who sought technical advice on its composition from the violinist Paweł Kochański—lays bare his emotions, at times to an unbearable degree. As Batiashvili says, “It is a dance between eroticism and compassion, between a dream world and tough reality.” There’s also Poème, another work for violin and orchestra, by Ernest Chausson, which chimes perfectly with Batiashvili’s pursuit of the inexpressible in “all of its nuances of love and beauty,” and Beau soir, a short but touching piece for violin and piano, the latter played by the conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin. The four works satisfy Batiashvili’s theme of secret love, each in its own way dreamlike, reflective, anguished, and impassioned. Read on as she guides us through each of them in-depth. Violin Sonata in A Major “This is the first time I have played with Giorgi [Gigashvili], but I’ve known him now for two years because he’s one of my foundation’s first scholars. He is a diverse musician who doesn’t only play classical music; he can also sing pop and jazz. When a talent like this is so obvious and when the desire for music is so strong, I feel that this diversity has taught him to be incredibly spontaneous, so for me to play with him allowed me to look at the Sonata like an open book. This can happen when you meet a musician: You play a piece you know well, but suddenly it becomes a new piece. We were very much on the same wavelength.” Violin Concerto No. 1 “I played this music for the first time in 2018, with the Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra, and I fell in love with it. I had an incredible feeling when playing it. Its sensuality and extremely interesting colors and emotions were new to me. When I learned that Szymanowski dedicated the work to his friend Paweł Kochański, who wrote the cadenza, I realized there is so much passion and so much hidden love expressed here. The music is an explosion of emotions. For example, there are moments that the violin goes very high on the E string. It’s like a very sensual singing voice on a huge, orchestral carpet of sound. And then, elsewhere in the middle and also the end, is a habanera. It’s love and dancing, together! We must celebrate love, especially in these terrible times, and music is the language that can do this.” Poème “Although it’s not a virtuoso piece, Poème is tricky to play with an orchestra. It bursts with color and emotion, but soloist and orchestra must always be together. Like Szymanowski, Chausson had help from a violinist, Eugène Ysaÿe, when composing it. These violinists were super important for both composers. They helped them see what was musically possible and what sounded better. Personally speaking, I don’t believe you can write a piece for a soloist if you don’t consult a person who will give you expert insight into the instrument you are writing for. This is why, when you play a piece that was very obviously dedicated to or composed with a soloist in mind and who has contributed to it, it’s a completely different experience for the performer.” Beau soir “Beau soir is a very intimate piece and another facet of the album’s theme of unexplained and untold love. I had planned to record several Debussy pieces with Yannick, but we ended up doing just this one. Happily, it is a beautiful ‘song.’ Debussy is one of my favorite composers, who gives you incredible freedom of expression, although with very precise score indications. I’ve played and recorded with Yannick before. He is one of the greatest conductors of our time who, like, for example, Simon Rattle and Daniel Barenboim, hears everything while seeing the whole picture. He brings incredible insight to even the shortest piece of music.”

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