This album nails its colours firmly to the mast at the very beginning of Tchaikovsky’s concerto. Barenboim and his German band set the scene with an opening phrase of such soft-hued peace that we feel in solid company at the outset of a firmly-charted, epic journey. There will be beautiful sights along the way, but we can be sure that no harm will befall us in such safe hands.
Lisa Batiashvili, who learned the Tchaikovsky only in the past few years, is a full and equal partner. Her playing dials down the rhapsody and whimsy, instead sustaining long melodic lines with a determination that patience and calm will reap their rewards.
The slow movement, which too often has a ‘big emotion’ stop-start quality, benefits here from a flowing pulse and lines created with an eye on the overall shape. And if the temperature of the finale is lower than on many recordings, I still found myself completely entranced by the epic story these artists were telling. Batiashvili and Barenboim turn a barn-burner into a soulful symphony with obligato violin.
Similar characteristics are present in the Sibelius. Here the orchestra sounds magnificent, rich and dark-hued, with a grainy quality that seems to have been dug directly from a Finnish forest in winter. Batiashvili and Barenboim are again unhurried, but here I felt less convinced by Batiashvili’s reticence to push her violin into uncomfortable places, to shout or cry or jump for joy.