Despite 30-some years of violin playing, and despite growing up in the Soviet Union, Lisa Batiashvili only just started learning the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto a few years ago.
Born in Tbilisi in 1979, "I was hearing this concerto all the time during my first 11 years in Georgia, traveling also for the Soviet Union and doing various competitions. That was the piece that everybody wanted to play. I just thought, I want to do other concerti."
"I heard a lot of Oistrakh, Heifetz, Milstein," Batiashvili said. "I had to step away from it because I knew I would get too influenced by other people; it was just impossible not to."
In 1993 she moved to Munich, and still, "there were other pieces that I really wanted to learn with my teacher Ana Chumachenko," she said. It was always there, but "I needed to find the moment when I was very keen on playing this concerto."
In recent years, with so much other repertoire under her belt, she finally felt a desire to take a look at the Tchaikovsky, a concerto she'd spent a lifetime avoiding. Last week Batiashvili released a new recording of the Tchaikovsky and Sibelius concertos, with Daniel Barenboim conducting the Staatskapelle Berlin. It was Barenboim who finally convinced her to look at the piece.
Barenboim, who had not recorded the Tchaikovsky concerto before, heard Batiashvili for the first time during a television broadcast of the Sibelius Concerto with the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra. He immediately called her and asked if she's like to perform the piece with him. What followed was a series of performances together with the Staatskapelle Berlin (Berlin State Opera Orchestra), four years in row at its annual end-of-season concert.
"It was very interesting, at this stage of my playing, to start learning a piece that everybody knows by heart," Batiashvili said. "If you hear the piece for years and years and you don't actually know what is written in the score, you can get very surprised," she said. "You realize how much people do because of habit and tradition."