Khatia Buniatishvili at Wigmore Hall – Chopin & Ravel

Piano Sonata No.2 in B flat minor, Op.35
Scherzos – No.2 in B flat minor, Op.31; No.3 in C sharp minor, Op.39
La valse

Khatia Buniatishvili (piano)

Reviewed by: Ben Hogwood

Reviewed: 11 February, 2013
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London

Khatia Buniatishvili. Photograph: Esther Haase/SonyKhatia Buniatishvili’s interpretations are never short of incident or run of the mill. At this BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Concert at Wigmore Hall her performance of Chopin’s B flat minor Piano Sonata was one of extremes, and frequently made compelling insights into the music. Not every instance of rubato was completely tasteful, and the first movement’s tempo was pulled around to such a degree that a pulse was almost absent at times, but there was also a huge amount of expression and passion. Her involvement in the music was total, and she cultivated a wider dynamic range than in previous recitals – some of the ‘Funeral March’, ideally paced, played at an ultra-quiet pianissimo. Only in the whirlwind rush of the first-movement exposition was her technique compromised, with a few mistakes coupled with a propensity for the left-hand to dominate when playing octaves.

The B flat minor Scherzo received an idiosyncratic performance, often erratic but with profound insights. Its C sharp minor sister was too fast at times, the left hand again dominant, but this was a fiercely dramatic performance, the pianist pulling at the tempo but giving a passionate and beautifully phrased account of the chorale theme.Buniatishvili then gave a highly impressive performance of La valse, a technical tour de force that nonetheless found space to bring across the balletic swing. The devil was in the detail, as well as in the music, Buniatishvili giving Ravel’s “dance of death” her all. Not done, and with little no contrast, here encore was the toccata-like finale of Prokofiev’s Piano Sonata No.7, given at a remarkably fast tempo and razor-sharp rhythmic precision.

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