Thursday, June 5, 2014

A Disappointing Recital that May Not Have Been a Fluke

In writing for, I have come to learn that one of the best ways to get across your message is to lead with something positive. Readers are more likely to approach you positively if you approach your subject matter the same way. Having established your intentions as honorable, rather than simply being in it for character defamation, you can then segue through some adverb like "unfortunately" or "sadly."

Unfortunately (see what I mean?) such was not the case when the young Georgian pianist Khatia Buniatishvili made her San Francisco recital debut this past April. About the only positive thing I could say was that both of her visits to Davies Symphony Hall as a concerto soloist with the San Francisco Symphony had been memorable in every positive sense of that adjective. In recital, on the other hand, the only thing that seemed to occupy her was a desire to play as fast as possible, leading to the inevitable onslaught of wrong notes. By the time I got to my keyboard, I was so aggravated that all I could do was compare her technique to the "spray and pray" firing of an AK-47.

It was therefore somewhat satisfying to discover that my experience was not due to some adverse conditions in San Francisco, such as jet lag or a really bad meal consumed recently as part of the tour. The Web site for today's London Telegraph has a review by Ivan Hewitt of Buniatisvili at Queen Elizabeth Hall. Much (but not all) of the program was the same as what she had performed in San Francisco. Hewitt was kind enough to use phrases like "sorely disappointing" (suggesting that he believed that she could do better); and he refrained from invoking the spirit of Mikhail Kalashnikov to inspire metaphor. However, he did describe her as being "intoxicated by her own virtuosity," which I am willing to grant is more polite than likening her to automatic weaponry.

Perhaps the proper metaphor, however, may be that she is a bit like a ferocious lioness. When playing with a conductor with the mindset of an animal tamer, she can be kept in check to the benefit of all. To draw away from animal metaphors, one might also suggest that she is still young enough to require "adult supervision."

No comments: