Music Director Alan Gilbert will lead the New York Philharmonic in Beethoven's Fidelio Overture and Symphony No. 1; Shostakovich's Violin Concerto No. 1, with Lisa Batiashvili as soloist; and Gershwin's An American in Paris, tonight, January 9, 2014, at 7:30 p.m.; Friday, January 10 at 8:00 p.m.; Saturday, January 11 at 8:00 p.m.; and Tuesday, January 14 at 7:30 p.m.
Lisa Batiashvili, who Alan Gilbert has called "one of the truly great violinists and artists in the world today," has appeared annually with the Orchestra since Mr. Gilbert became Music Director. The New York Times praised her most recent appearance with the Orchestra, in June 2013 when she performed Prokofiev's Violin Concerto No. 1: "Mr. Gilbert ... had an ideal soloist in the brilliant violinist Lisa Batiashvili. Together they brought out the work's intricate complexities and surprising intensity."
Ms. Batiashvili's recording Echoes of Time, featuring Shostakovich's Violin Concerto No. 1, received an ECHO Klassik award in 2011. Her teacher Mark Lubotsky studied with David Oistrakh, for whom Shostakovich wrote his violin concertos and who performed the First Violin Concerto's World and U.S. Premieres, the latter with the New York Philharmonic. "When my teacher started telling stories about the First Violin Concerto, I completely fell in love with this piece," Lisa Batiasvhili said. "David Oistrakh had shared very emotional and precise information about every movement. Somehow the piece became symbolic of the time in the Soviet Union, which I had also experienced myself during the first ten years of my life. Musicians during Soviet times were also looking for the freedom that Shostakovich sought through his music."
On this program, Shostakovich's First Violin Concerto is bookended with two works by Beethoven that are also tied to themes of freedom: the Fidelio Overture, written for his opera about a woman who disguises herself to rescue her unjustly imprisoned husband, and Beethoven's Symphony No. 1, illustrating Mozart and Haydn's influence while also breaking Classical traditions.
"Beethoven is a touchstone," Alan Gilbert said. "He is the iconic orchestral composer, and his nine symphonies are the essential canon of orchestral music. Everything that has come since is related either by carrying on what Beethoven started, or deliberately going against it."
The program closes with Gershwin's An American in Paris, the American composer's rhapsody that the New York Philharmonic commissioned and premiered in 1928. "I've sometimes thought that Gershwin might be the greatest American composer of all," Alan Gilbert said. "I don't think I'd have a lot of trouble trying to defend that statement. He's a true master in his jazz sense, with a naturalness and a swing, but his sense of harmony is as developed as that of pretty much any 20th-century composer. The fact that his music is joyous and fun to listen to and is also at such a high level is very impressive to me."