Liebestraume No. 3
Mephisto waltz No. 1
Grand galop chromatique S219
Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 in C sharp minor (arr. Vladimir Horowitz)
Khatia Buniatishvili, piano
1 April 2015, Wigmore Hall, London
A most frustrating recital. The Georgian pianist Khatia Buniatishvili possesses a super technique, interpretative originality and intensity. While these qualities remained focused, this resulted in a very memorable performance of Pictures at an Exhibition, mesmirising from the strikingly ruminative Promenade at the opening.
While there was some tendency to treat something like the Ballet of Unhatched Chicks as a finger exercise, each picture was strongly articulated and the performance climaxed with a genuinely hair-raising portrait of the witch Baba Yaga and an impressive Great Gate of Kiev. Splendid.
The second half was all Liszt, much of it famously difficult. What was the piece most concerning Buniatishvili? Of course Feux follets - she was practising it all through the interval. In the end this work was the high point of a dismal set of performances.
The Liebestraume started well enough but as Buniatishivili launched into the First Mephisto Waltz she became increasingly ill-disciplined. On a pure note playing level, many notes were bashed in a very short space of time indeed. But faster and louder does not mean better, or even more exciting. The piece lost all shape in a blur of notes, the musical impact was negligible.
This lack of discipline contined. Liszt's favourite encore, the Grand Gallop was given a particularly ridiculous pulverising. Despite an extraordinary velocity and volume, in this pianist's hands it had neither wit nor thrills. The nadir was reached as the Hungarian Rhapsody Number 2 descended into a shapeless mash of notes and chords that were virtual sonic booms such was the exaggeration.
What can be said in conclusion? Perhaps the less the better. Much of the playing after the interval was borderline disrespectful to the compositions. Liszt reduced to empty display. Those that are hoping Khatia Buniatishvili's obvious talent will mature into great artistry must be harboring substantial doubts.
|Noble Liszt - not at Wigmore Hall|