Lisa Batiashvili Reflects on Music and Motherhood

Sunday, May 08, 2011

The Georgian-born violinist Lisa Batiashvili is a fast-rising international star, but also the mother of two young children: a six-year-old daughter and two-year-old son. Motherhood resonates strongly in Batiashvili’s career. She was born the child of a pianist mother and violinist father, and her own children are also growing up in a doubly musical family, with Batiashvili’s husband an oboist, Francois Leleux. They live in Munich, where Batiashvili moved with her parents in 1991 from Tbilisi, Georgia.

But while her parents were decisive influences on her career, Batiashvili stresses that she is not pushing her own children into music. During a visit to New York to perform with the New York Philharmonic, she told us about the need to balance work and family, which includes keeping her schedule to 50 concerts per year.

How was your mother an influence on your career?

She was a major influence on the artistic side of my life. She herself is a pianist and she had the feeling when she was young that she didn’t get enough attention from her parents and not enough support in order to practice at a young age. It’s very rare that children are willing to spend hours with an instrument every day, which is important to get to the right level. So when she had her baby, she said she would put a lot of energy to support the child from the beginning on in order to have good results.

When did you get started on the violin and what was your mother's role in that decision?

When I started playing I was four years old. My mother was there to remind me every day that I had to practice. It wasn’t a lot but it was simply something that had to be done. She was always thinking what would be the best school to put me in. My parents moved to Germany in 1991 when I was 10 years old. It was very important step for my parents to leave their country and go to Germany. The main reason for that was my musical education. Of course, she was very important in that part.

Did your mother help you decide on the violin?

I started playing piano and violin. My mom is a pianist and my Dad is a violinist. When I was about five I decided violin was the instrument I preferred because it’s a very cute, small instrument that I could carry around. I had more passion for it.

Now that you’re a mother, do you hope to see your two kids follow your career path?

It’s very different because they were born in a very different time and in a different country. In general, today, the contemporary child has such an incredible choice of different activities and is quite distracted. When I was young there were just one or two things I did and I went to school. Today there are many things children do, which is great, but that also makes it difficult to concentrate on something like music. The other reason why I am pushing my children less towards music is I would also like them to discover other things. I’m trying to bring them to music but in a more soft way rather than being active in musical life.

Do any of your children play instruments yet?

My daughter plays piano a little bit but already there she didn’t show me a huge interest and passion for playing music. My son, he is only two, but he probably will play. I feel he has a huge passion and love for music.

Is it important for parents to get their kids started on instruments at a very young age?

Yes, simply it’s so much more natural when children start music when they’re still unconscious about it. So many things happen naturally. It can only be an advantage when music becomes a mother tongue. It’s important to see if they’re really demanding that. I remember when I was two, I was begging my parents to give me an instrument. I asked them for two years, almost every day, and finally my dad gave me an instrument. It was really fulfilling.

How challenging is it to tour when you have two small chidlren?

I find it very difficult because it’s such a change of a role. As a mother with children you’re a completely different person than you are on the stage. I find it more and more difficult to bring my children on a trip where I have such important concerts to play. What I try to do is play fewer concerts per year and be more at home but when I’m away I more and more like to take time for myself and prepare myself and concentrate on my work which is quite difficult anyway.

Interview has been edited and condensed

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