Together or Apart, Batiashvili and Lewis Shine

United StatesUnited States  Schubert, Bach, Telemann, and Beethoven: Lisa Batiashvili (violin), Paul Lewis  (piano), Perelman Theater, Kimmel Center, Philadelphia, 25.3.2015 (BJ)

Schubert: Violin Sonata in A major, D.574; Rondeau brillant in B minor, D.895
Bach: Nun komm’ der Heiden Heiland, BWV 659 (arr. Busoni)
Telemann: Fantasy No. 4 in D major for solo violin, TWV 40:17
Beethoven: Violin Sonata No. 10 in G major, Op. 96


It isn’t every star soloist who can blend with conviction into the collaborative world of chamber music, but in this Philadelphia Chamber Music Society recital  the 35-year-old Georgian violinist Lisa Batiashvili and the 42-year-old English pianist Paul Lewis coalesced in a seemingly instinctive and sympathetic duo that was as impressive as their individual achievements have been.

The program, too, was artfully and effectively designed, allowing each a solo spot in between substantial works from the early-19th-century piano and violin repertoire. Schubert was represented in two guises: the spacious classically-trained romantic of the A-major Sonata, also known as the “Grand Duo,” and the less familiar composer of virtuoso fare in the Rondeau brillant. Both in these two pieces and in the last and most tranquilly Olympian of Beethoven’s ten violin sonatas, Batiashvili spun a line that met every stylistic, technical, and expressive challenge the music presented her with, and Lewis’s warmth of tone and clarity of texture were equally compelling.

Lewis’s performance of Bach’s Nun komm’ der Heiden Heiland met Busoni’s solo piano version on its own richly expressive terms, and Batiashvili offered a welcome if fleeting opportunity to hear one of the twelve fantasies that extraordinarily productive composer Telemann wrote for unaccompanied violin.

In all of this, there was never a hint of individualistic self-indulgence, but only the evident dedication of two master musicians to the characteristics of four very different composers. It was striking too that, when they played an encore in the shape of Kreisler’s Liebesleid, Batiashvili showed that she had yet another figurative string to her bow, summoning additional resources of romantic richness to the varieties of tone from feathery (in the Telemann) to keenly focused (in Schubert and Beethoven) with which she had illuminated the individuality of each composer.

Bernard Jacobson

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