Thomas Swan on Classical Lite reviews the reviewers regarding Georgian pianist Khatia Buniatishvili. Are they wrong in their assessment…more about style than substance? And is that fair?
Everything about Khatia Buniatishvili perturbs some segment of the classical world in some way at some point. Is that a bad thing, though? Why must we sit in our most formal attire watching similiarly dressed people play similarly arranged music? Does that enhance Vaughn Williams’ Concerto Grosso into the sublime? Does it make Antonín Dvořák’s Cello Concerto in B minor, third movement’s rondeau crisper? After all, the music must not hold that much sway if Khatia’s cleavage has your attention more than Antonin. But don’t just look at her boobs. The critic from the Daily Telegraph is not. He was told that Georgians were nice, sweet people and the banging Khatia was doing to poor Stravinsky’s Petroucshka was tantamount to rape, to say nothing what it was doing to Lady Chatterly and the ideas it was putting in her head. Do you love classical music? If so, Khatia Buniatishvili will likely piss you off at some point.
It’s difficult when an art form, which spurs your very soul to breathe, is as structured and unrelenting as classical music can be. After all, at the very heart of beauty is art and, without leeway, art becomes manufactured. But apparently, interpretation is only acceptable as long as it has a certified reason, case law to back it up, and a letter from James Levine. Khatia (Excuse the forwardness, but you try writing Buniatishvili more than once) is a virtouso and the way she plays and the notes she chooses are her voice to a lover, the wrongdoers of the world, and Ludwig and Wolfgang (who are busy in a dancehall taking in this new cat, Jerry Lee Lewis with amazement—they had never before seen anyone make the piano his b@tch).
Ivan Hewett didn’t see it this way. He sat and listened, and had to ask from behind his computer at the Telegraph, “This was all very striking. But where was the musical sense in it all? When everything is pushed to extremes, all we’re left with is a series of shocks to the nervous system, which very soon wear off. I never thought the beginning of Chopin’s heroic and tragic Scherzo could sound trivial, but Buniatishvili somehow managed it. The piece began fast and then accelerated, skidding to a halt at the first cadence with cartoonish suddenness.”