I managed to get a ticket at the last moment to hear the Georgian pianist Khatia Buniatishvilli in her recital at the Wigmore Hall, on a cold, snowy Monday lunchtime. She is a pretty 25 year old, wore a striking cream, diaphonous dress that was a site for sore eyes on such a miserable day, and has a mass of black hair that kept falling in front of her eyes, but didn’t seem to affect her playing. It did mean however that she couldn’t bow comfortably – if footballers can wear hairbands, why not female pianists ? Her programme was the Chopin Funeral March Sonata, his 2nd and 3rd Scherzi, and Ravel‘s La Valse.
As she started the Sonata I felt a warm glow inside me. The pleasure of hearing live music is indescribable. Given my disc jockeying activities I listen to a lot of CDs. Nothing compares with live music and the sense that an artist is ‘creating’ music in front of you. Khatia (not as a source of familiarity, but to avoid having to re-type Buniatishvilli many times) is one of a number of pianists whose inspiration seems to be the young Martha Argerich. A fantastic technique, and a tendency to play quick bits very quickly, and slow bits very slowly. I thought she pulled the Sonata around too much – but that didn’t matter. Here was an artist giving a performance of music she loved and had clearly thought about. Whether it would be the ultimate performance didn’t matter. It was valid and one likes to think Chopin would have been happy with it. Her La Valse was full of the colour and energy Ravel demands, and to show that she was still full of energy she gave a barnstorming performance of the last movement of Prokofiev‘s 7th Sonata as an encore.
I continue my love/hate relationship with the Wigmore Hall. Hate because the leg room is totally inadequate for anyone of above average height, and I believe using a full sized concert Steinway is too big for the Hall. Love because they have good programmes, and a knowledgeable audience, who are generally well behaved. However the concert was somewhat spoiled by an aged, over weight, individual sitting behind me, who went through the full repertoire of adenoidal harmonics as he nodded off to sleep and then woke with a start, on a number of occasions.
I have started reading Alan Rusbridger‘s Play it Again. There are two elements which have started to irritate me. The first is the view that Steinways are the finest pianos in the world. The one played by Khatia was not one of their most beguiling instruments with a metallic upper register, and whilst many Steinways are very good, I’ve heard many poor ones. A lot depends on the individual tuning and voicing, as well as the underlying condition of the piano. The other is his banging on about how technically difficult the 1st Ballade is. The Coda is reasonably, but compared with the two Scherzi Khatia played, it is not. I shall return to this book when I have finished it.