Secret Love Letters. Lisa Batiashvili. © 2022 Deutsche Grammophon GmbH

CD Spotlight

Secret Love Letters

Lisa Batiashvili plays Chausson, Debussy, Franck and Szymanowski, warmly recommended by GERALD FENECH

'Batiashvili plays this programme with ultra-sensitive feeling and moving emotional ardour that penetrate right to the heart of this sublime music which reveals the inscrutable depths of the human soul.'


'Secret Love Letters'. A strange name indeed for a musical album, but the main artist of this programme Lisa Batiashvili asks: 'What would human life be like without this range of emotions and feelings which we feel cannot be shared with anyone?' This issue celebrates the fine art of concealment, of holding private passions just beneath the surface until they erupt, and Batiashvili and Co embark on a journey that spans everything from forbidden love to romance seen from the perspective of old age. She continues: 'There are so many hidden messages in music, things that cannot be put into words. Something very obvious unites the four pieces I have chosen for this album by Chausson, Debussy, Franck and Szymanowski. It is the message of love that is there in the music, in many different facets and colours, and so much of that message is secret and intimate'. And the conductor on this disc, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, is on the same wavelength: 'One of my favourite quotes in life is that music starts where words stop. What's so special about music is that it allows us to say things that sometimes we cannot even express to ourselves.'

At the heart of Secret Love Letters is Karol Szymanowski's First Violin Concerto, the Polish composer's dream-like meditation on the imagery of May Night, a poem by Tadeusz Micinski and the starting point for the creation of a score bursting with passion and sensuality. The piece was written in Ukraine during the First World War and first performed in Warsaw in November 1922. Lisa explains: 'It is a work full of love and pain deriving from the restrictions experienced by a man who was in love with another man at a time when this was outlawed both legally and morally. It is a dance between eroticism and compassion, between a dream world and tough reality.'

Listen — Szymanowski: Violin Concerto No 1
(00289 486 0462 track 5, 0:00-0:59) ℗ 2022 Deutsche Grammophon GmbH :

Szymanowski's single-movement concerto finds a perfect compliment in Ernest Chausson's Poème for violin and orchestra, composed in 1896 during a summer visit to Florence. Chausson originally intended to call his lyrical piece 'Le Chant de l'amour triomphant' (The Song of Triumphant Love). Poème's rejected title and much of its atmosphere stem from a novella by the Russian author Ivan Turgenev, who himself was infatuated with the famous mezzo-soprano Pauline Viardot, and formed an enduring menage à trois with the singer and her husband. Poème was inspired by and dedicated to one of the great artists of the day, the Belgian violinist Eugène Ysaÿe.

Listen — Chausson: Poème
(00289 486 0462 track 6, 9:30-10:19) ℗ 2022 Deutsche Grammophon GmbH :

Framing the Szymanowski and Chausson works are compositions by Franck and Debussy. Like Poème, Franck's sublime Sonata in A for violin and piano has a connection with the great Ysaÿe: the composer presented it to the violinist and his bride Louise Bourdeau as a wedding gift. Reflecting an ageing composer's still strong desires and emotions, the Sonata apparently shocked Franck's conservative wife, but audiences have been captivated ever since by the beauty and searing passion of the work which was premiered in Brussels in December 1886.

Listen — Franck: Allegretto poco mosso (Sonata in A for violin and piano)
(00289 486 0462 track 4, 0:00-0:53) ℗ 2022 Deutsche Grammophon GmbH :

The final choice of music for Secret Love Letters is Debussy's Beau soir. Originally conceived as a song to lyrics by the novelist and critic Paul Bourget, its exquisite depiction of an idyllic sunset inspired legendary violinist Jascha Heifetz to make a sultry arrangement for violin and piano. This is what Lisa has to say on Debussy's music: 'This composer was a messenger of the most magical atmosphere, fantasy and purity one can only imagine'.

Listen — Debussy: Beau soir
(00289 486 0462 track 7, 1:43-2:14) ℗ 2022 Deutsche Grammophon GmbH :

Batiashvili plays this programme with ultra-sensitive feeling and moving emotional ardour that penetrate right to the heart of this sublime music which reveals the inscrutable depths of the human soul. Giorgi Gigashvili, Yannick Nézet-Séguin and the Philadelphia Orchestra give unbridled support, and to say that they are totally engrossed in this venture is an understatement. An absolutely superb group of 'Love Letters' that should be thoroughly investigated. I am sure you will find a piece of yourself reflected in this music. Warmly recommended.

Copyright © 21 September 2022 Gerald Fenech,
Gzira, Malta










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