Violinist Lisa Batiashvili is at the stage in her career where a crossover album, aimed at making her a marquee draw, was called for. It would have been easy for her put together an album filled with the likes of My Heart Will Go On, and it is to her credit that she has devised a release that is altogether more original.
The title City Lights has a dual meaning: it refers to the suite of music by Charlie Chaplin that opens the album (it's still forgotten sometimes that he was a composer as well as a filmmaker), and to the set of pieces that follow, each of which is associated with a city having significance in Batiashvili's life and career. These range across Europe, also including Buenos Aires and New York, and concluding in the violinist's native Georgia, in Tbilisi. The idea is clever, but it's the execution that really clicks.
Working mostly with composer Nikoloz Rachveli, Batiashvili offers a mixture of classical selections, popular songs, semi-popular virtuoso or dance works, a Piazzolla tango, and, for the recent death of Ennio Morricone, the Theme from Cinema Paradiso. Rachveli's arrangements tie the program together well, even with dual orchestral accompaniments from the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra and the Georgian Philharmonic (Rachveli conducts both), and leaves room for considerable expressiveness on Batiashvili's part. A fine example of a crossover release.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim
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