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Another Georgian artist with gender issues

June 27, 2014 by norman lebrecht

82 comments.


The pianist Khatia Buniatishvili, who has captured the attention before with the abundance of her natural assets, has been sounding off in Vienna about what makes her such a natural artist. She has a Sony album coming out, titled Motherland. A provocative video has been removed from Youtube.

Here’s what she says:

Khatia+Buniatishvili+photo+Julia+Wesley

 

photo (c) Julia Wesley, 2012

Earth and woman are, for me, symbols of fertility and creativity. It’s a primitive truth: We all come from our mother. Feminine fertility is what makes my CD so personal. That is why I don’t play the virtuoso here, as usual. It comes – trite, but true – from the heart. In these pieces, emotion transcends style, one doesn’t know which which period they come from; in this mixture, style is no more. The album is bound up with my mother, the beginning of my life in her belly.

“Motherland” bedeutet Heimat, hier aber auch wörtlich Mutter-Land. Erde und Frau, das sind für mich Symbole von Fruchtbarkeit und Kreativität. Es ist eine primitive Wahrheit: Wir alle kommen von unserer Mutter. Diese weibliche Fruchtbarkeit ist hier Thema, die CD sehr persönlich. Darum spiele ich hier auch nicht wie sonst Virtuoses. Es kommt – klingt banal, ist aber so – von Herzen. Weil es in diesen Stücken mehr um die Emotion geht als die stilistische Form, muss man nicht wissen, aus welcher Periode sie stammen; in dieser Mischung der Stile gibt es keinen mehr. Das Album ist verbunden mit meiner Mutter, aber auch mit dem Anfang meines Lebens in ihrem Bauch.

Oh, just shut up and play, will you?

On a hot night you can see forever.


Comments (82)

  1. Darren says:

    What a ‘primitive truth’ she is herself. Just shut up and-….don’t even play. What a load of nonsensical ramblings.

    1. Joe Swifteagle says:

      Listen to her performance which is outstanding.

      If her dress is provocative , just don’t look. AS an 83 yr old- timer it’s just a pleasant, unexpected added attraction .

      1. Laszlo says:

        Nowaday, 83 year olds are more hip, cool and liberated than the current generation. Thank Political Correctness and a lot of common uncommon-sense plus stupidity for that.

    2. Eray says:

      Jealosy is no virtue, neither is illogicality, set aside good manners. Why don’t *you* just shut up and …!!!

    3. Darren says:

      You are a clown.

  2. David Boxwell says:

    We had a high-falutin’ term for this in grad school: essentialism.

  3. What am I reading says:

    What a bunch of tired old 19th-century clichés. “Buniatishvili as earth-mother goddess”– is this what classical music marketing has devolved into? What are we paying all those PR people for?

  4. Stephen says:

    A real firebrand of a pianist, though, and of the highest potential. Her words here may be rather embarrassing piffle but one reads worse.

  5. Sofia says:

    It’s always about her, not the music. She really knows how to market herself.

    1. Richard Zimmerman says:

      She’s supposed to.
      Wouldn’t you market yourself?
      It’s a business, and she treats it as such.
      I could care less if she wants to think she is Mother Goose.
      She’s insanely talented.
      She’s insanely beautiful.
      I for one, appreciate her, Mother Goose and all.

  6. Brian says:

    So what was on the video that prompted its removal? Usually it has to be pretty obscene for YouTube to pull something. Unless one of her handlers made an executive decision.

    1. norman lebrecht says:

      Some fairly flamboyant flaunting of the upper half. As seen on TV (and Slipped Disc, until the takedown).

      1. Brian says:

        Interesting. There must be something in the water in Georgia these days.

        1. elleni says:

          What do you mean by your comment Brian?

  7. PianoConnoisseur says:

    I attended her Weill Hall recital a few months ago: She beat the piano black & blue (as she must have done the following night in Dallas, per the scathing review she received there). It was truly the most musically irresponsible performance I’ve ever heard in a major venue, and one can only wonder how much longer she’ll be able to get away with such nonsense. Talent isn’t enough: This girl needs lessons, period. Her narcissistic keyboard rants have nothing to do with music-making. And, BTW, Katia: That white gown you’re wearing in your Schumann Concerto on Youtube (with your barely covered derriere) — WHERE is your self-esteem???

    1. Simonsays2013 says:

      If I see another picture of this pianist posing in sexually provocative ways I will throw up. Is this what classical music has come to?

      1. Pete says:

        If the music’s good, why not? If the music’s bad, I want to learn why. The only performance by Katia that I have not liked is the Shostakovich First, which seems to err on the sentimental side.

        1. Douglas Chapman says:

          I’m with you, Pete. She’s emotional, sentimental, irrepressible, and exuberant. NOTE to readers herein: The composers of almost all of the last 500 years of music were passionate, risk-taking, bohemian and oft uncontrollable. Passion is out there. Khatia is a package of exuberance . . . technical virtuosity, earthy extravagance, feminine sentimentality, and MUSICIANSHIP. (What would you have her do to satisfy prudishness, come onstage in widow’s weeds, not celebrate her personal beautiful, and perhaps enjoy herself less?)

          Every great artist outrages the public. Khatia Buniatishvili stirs us on all levels. So be it!

          1. Jacques says:

            bravo, why are people ranting about these female classic music players so much? Is it envy? Is it prudishness? Just listen and cover your eyes if its all too much. You are totally right in what you are saying, the same BS is being thrown at Yuja Wang, another top pianist in my humble view.

          2. Sandy says:

            So agree. She may stir things in people in numerous ways, but forget about everything else aside from the music- close your eyes, and LISTEN. And when the performance finishes, aren’t you better for having heard it?

      2. Martin says:

        Oh my word.! What a bunch of old envious dorks you are! Not only is she talened but beaitiful with a figute of a goddess! I love her pkaying.. i love her looks and its so refresing to see such a sexy pianist to boot! Leave the ravishing lady alone and just enjoy her aying.. millions all over the world do.

        1. Spot on! I couldn’t’ve said it better!

        2. doyle fowler says:

          Everything they do is beautiful.

        3. Mike Dodier says:

          I agree wholeheartedly! She is ravishing and provocative, but extremely talented. I think she draws non-classical listeners in and holds them with a firm, yet loving grip!

          1. Chutney says:

            Ever wish you were a piano? Oh baby grand

      3. Sylvester says:

        Some gay people like her…..! Save your vomit for Hilary….

  8. william osborne says:

    Writings about feminism, deep ecology, and environmental ethics have been around since the 19th century. Concepts of feminism and nature became a part of Western thought well before the Hellenistic era. The most worshipped deity in Augustan Rome was the earth goddess Cybele. Augustus built his house facing her temple, which was located where the Vatican now stands. To this day we live with common notions such as Mother Nature. The practice of carrying witches in baskets to the stakes where they were burned stemmed from the notion that they could draw power if they touched the earth.

    The term ecofeminism was coined in the 1970s. There is now a large literature around it, though its philosophies have only recently become more common in the conservative, masculinist, bourgeois world of classical music.

    The idea of comparing women with nature and men with mind/culture has been criticized as essentialist. Ecofeminism rejects many manifestations of power in the modern world at a time when women are seeking to share in that power. Still, there is much to be learned from its perspectives – though of course not in this forum.

    1. Ira says:

      Totally agree.

  9. Olaugh Turchev says:

    In what sense is this musician having “gender issues”? In what sense stating she still feels the womb connection with her mother is a gender issue? Please, beyond personal musical taste or personality liking, would anyone throwing a stone here that has not been borne from a womb stand up?

    1. CURTIS HESTER says:

      GREAT REPLY !

    2. CURTIS HESTER says:

      Thank you ! Great reply !

  10. SteinAway says:

    Let’s cut to the chase – when pianists with intergalactic capabilities are a dime per dozen piano competitions, and they all play the same stuff, you are lucky to be female because at least you can flaunt t**s and a** to market yourself. And who in the audience these days – apart from the distinguished cognoscenti on this site – can tell a rubato from a ripped gown back?

  11. raul3 says:

    This lynch mob is the biggest bunch of #haters I have seen in a long time. Reeks of jealously in here. I doubt she can hear you over her passionate piano playing.

  12. Saul says:

    Oh.. you guys have a serious problem. Anyway…
    For all of your primitive minds.. Lola Astanova.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iwVp7S59fO0

    1. Gabe says:

      Awesome 😀

      1. Stanley Green says:

        Agreed.

      2. John McLennon says:

        Agreed

        1. ITSA (It's That Steve Again) says:

          Ja, es ist sehr gut (apparently)

  13. Gabe says:

    The lynch mob and haters don’t know crap about music and cannot get laid. Jealousy, that is all…

    1. Nettie says:

      Spot on!

  14. Cristian says:

    Cannot believe so much inadequate comments from the bottom of the stomach, why ? she’s pretty, she’s young, she’s renown by most important conductors and musicians as well, ………you all stop envy, it will burn your soul..

    1. Stanley Green says:

      Agreed

  15. Nettie says:

    Go Christian and Raul 3 …totally agree. Not often someone so refreshing and passionate hits the stage. The talent is so obvious hyperbole unnecessary … She can make it all about herself as much as she needs … Her musicianship just gets better

  16. THOR says:

    Utterly sad to see people wanting to have pianists with almost identical playing skills. Is that what satisfies your musical taste? That is why classical music is becoming less popular, than it used to be years ago.
    I appriciate and like her vision of interpeting scores.

  17. Larry Dunn says:

    Her accomplishments, abilities and lifelong dedication to her gift and her craft has entitled her to our respect and admiration. Whatever her feelings or expression of her feelings…I love her music and her remarkable performance personal. We love you, Khatia! God bless you!

    1. Stanley Green says:

      Agreed

  18. Joe U says:

    Leave the ignorant negative comments to yourselves! She’s a truly gifted musician who has perfected her craft. She’s as talented as she’s beautifu! And yes, she’s very young too. I tickle the ivorys and can appreciate classical music and true virtuosity. She has it all! Go Khatia!

    1. Stanley Green says:

      Agreed

  19. Peter Brawley says:

    She’s a brilliant pianist with an approach to musical performance that’s more Mediterranean than Nordic, more emotional than cerebral, more passionate than conventional, more Latin than English. She’s evidently way more comfortable with feeling than many of her tight-assed Anglophone critics. And she looks as good as she sounds.

    On all counts, three cheers for her. If you don’t like the form-fitting dresses or the body inside it, don’t look.

    Appearance aside, many of her performances are riveting, well worth hearing over and over again.

    1. Stanley Bolnik says:

      I agree and think her playing quite bewitching.

  20. Wolf says:

    to all you prudes, get a life. she is young and has the right to show her sensuality and sexuality. if you can’t handle it at least listen to her making beautiful music.

  21. petrov ushinki says:

    One reads comments on you tubes as a pass the time distraction. many of us give in and put in of our two cents but I am that agreed catty and hater type comments predominate. thats why on some you tubes the comments represent the lowest common denominators of our social body. a recent study found that the greatest harrassers and troll types were adolescent males and those older with the same mindset.

    1. Cristina says:

      You can always close your eyes and listen to her play the piano,but I prefer all my senses open when she play.

  22. Guido says:

    While I’m inclined to say that she tends to rush passages in various pieces (compared to Bolet or Gilels … Leginska…), she is unquestionably a brilliant and inspired pianist. She recognizes that a great performance goes beyond playing brilliantly and presents herself in a most appealing way.

    So … Gender issues? Are you out of your mind 😉 … She doesn’t appear to be at all confused on that ‘score.’

  23. Nick says:

    SO MANY HATERS!!! Stop trying to fit her into your version of what a concert pianist can be.

    She is beautiful, dramatic, and aggressive.

    I am sure all of the comments about her playing were at one time made about Beethoven as well.
    Also, she probably would not be getting all of this negative attention if she was a man.

  24. Jim says:

    I’m not quite sure what this issue is with her attire…is it the white dress she’s wearing for the concerto performance? Not that revealing, really. It’s just got a lot of her back showing.

  25. ted Hamilton says:

    A wonderfully gifted and trained musician unafraid to offer her interpretation rather than imitate. Her sexual disposition is her business and should not be an issue. The critics are usually the sexually problemed rather than the objects of their vitriol. She is a talented and sensual presenter of herself and a varied musical palette. …As for the judgment of critics; read Rachmaninoff’s harsh criticisms of his many brilliant compositions. Time has proven the critics wrong which is mostly the case and there are many examples. The critics offer opinions and rarely have knowledge of how to perform what they are criticizing.They rely on flamboyant self-promotion, not talent. Khatia displays a varied and learned profile. combined with passion and talent….Well done Khatia.

  26. Roz Barak says:

    She’s fabulous. Period.

  27. John King says:

    I rather like her Concerto In 34D Major!

  28. It's That Steve Again (ITSA) says:

    I stumbled upon Khatia Buniatishvili while pursuing YouTube clips of the viollinist Lisa Batiashvili.

    I would not say Lisa plays the violin very good. I would say she plays it exquisitely. So when I found some clips of her and Khatia playing together, naturally enough, I downloaded them. When the full clip of their Schubert, Franck concert became available, I downloaded that.

    I see that like Lisa – who began learning the violin around age four, with her father as teacher – Khatia also began lessons young, around age three, with her mother as tutor.

    Whatever her belief system is, and whatever one thinks of it, and her espousing of it, she does seem pretty good to me, and I for one am happy to enjoy the treat for what it is.

  29. John Holley says:

    Clearly, it’s very easy to declaim people in the public eye, whatever their talents, abilities, and looks. But such criticism detracts from the critic as much as the target. (People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones, etc…) Yes, Khatia exploits her appearance, and sometimes adopts her own interpretation, or even strikes the occasional ‘bum-note’, (no pun intended!), but she must be congratulated on her abilities and talent, and her commitment to her art. She deserves praise for her performances – and with her sisters we enjoy a ‘Buy One, Get One Free’ that’s beyond expectations! She has such passion and vitality that are compelling, and is a joy to watch as well as to hear. And yes, she is a beautiful sexy lady. If you’ve got it, flaunt it: who can blame her? That’s life – not just these days; exploiting your charms is surely as old as human-kind. Her looks are eye-catching, but when she plays, her face and her fingers convey such passion and power that even her exquisite physique and her attire are irrelevant. But let’s enjoy every aspect of her as a gifted performer, and envy her abilities. She does not need or deserve criticism or blame for being who or what she is. She is a woman: half the world are… more or less…. So what?! Few of us can ever match her gifts… all of them. And the fact that so many leading orchestras and conductors gladly invite her to perform with them is surely evidence of peer respect… and they DO know…. Their respect trumps any lay critic, out to make some cheap jibe.

  30. Frank says:

    Stanley, you simply must broaden your vocabulary. Ever notice lady opera singers chests heaving during intense moments in an opera or recital? So why not a sensational performer, (mostly) at a Steinway.
    If only you just listen, you will hear lines of exquisite music coaxed from that percussive 9 footer that rival the best in the world. From her most intimate Chopin to her stupendous fortissimos of Rachmaninoff or Liszt, her excellent ability to weave lines of pure sound touching all areas of the emotional potential is stunningly superb. If we are lucky that we have her performing decades from now, won’t all this silly discussion remain just that silly………….

    Isn’t it interesting that so many of the commenters are not the ladies, but gentlemen of sorts.

  31. IMHO Khatia and Gvastsa are two beautiful pianists who play as good as they look and look as good as they play! Bravo Buniatishvili sisters!

  32. John Alifano, M.D. says:

    Beautiful, stunning, gorgeous and brilliant!
    Khatia plays with incredible passion and feelings, which are a joy to our ears and our eyes. Bravo!

    1. Richard Joseph Harrington says:

      John,
      Richard Harrington here. I also love khatia’s playing. Hope all is well with you and the family. Your Dad was a part of my childhood. Best, Dick.

  33. Gary Taylor says:

    I’m and R&B songwriter who just appreciates talent and “all” good music… I think she’s doing what pleases her. I didn’t sit through any of her lessons, or past recitals to see how she got to where she is today, so I’m going to enjoy what she choosing to give. Why have the Look and the Talent if your not going to use them. To hell with Old School rules… “The worst thing you can do in life is have a God given gift and not use it”.

  34. JohnH says:

    Oh, just shut up and … well you don’t even play, do you, Norman? She has more talent in her little finger than you ever could have hoped for.

  35. BTW How do you rate Khatia Buniatishvili versus Valentina Lesitsa? Ah, these Slavs!

    1. ITSA (It's That Steve Again) says:

      Hmmm… well (puffs out chest. Puts on important sounding voice). This Valentina person is no Lisa Batiashvii. Nor is she Dmitri Hvorostovsky. Nor Boris Karloff or Spike Milligan, or anyone else for that matter.

      But she is, apparently, Valentina Lisitsa, and she’s pretty good at that, so thanks for introducing us/me to her. Do you have a favourite, or favourites, that she plays?

      In this interview, she describes some of the influence of the “so called Russian piano school”
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pqw1KvooaaY

      From her Wikipedia entry, I see that – like Khatia Buniatishvilli and (violinist) Lisa Batiashvili – she began playing at a very early age. So like them and others who start young, she understands music as a language. She can think in it.

      I was once told that the late conductor Georg Tintner conducted without a score, from memory. I got to meet him a handful of times, in the late 1980s or early 1990s. On my first meeting, I put this to him. He replied that it was not that he remembered the music, but that “I understand it”.

      I get that sense also with Valentina, Khatia and Lisa.

      Interestingly (for me at least), Lisa Batiashvili also describes the influence of the Soviet/Russian school. Probably via her father, who was her first teacher, and whose own background would have been from that era.

      See, e.g. this interview regarding Shostakovitch and the Soviet era, and its influence on her.
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FHA8xy3YVSY

      See also this Classic Talk interview, which I found quite insightful, including, in part one, her experience leaving Georgia as a child. In part two, at about 17 minutes into the interview, she is asked about her self-reflection when she nails a piece of music. Her reply is interesting, and I daresay Valentina would understand where Lisa is coming from.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HfYMzt-uQnA

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kDaL2fNKpsk

      I would bet that these two (Lisa and Valentina), if they were to meet, would get on very well. And if they were to play together, we’d be in for a treat.

      Cheers
      Steve

  36. Tina says:

    It’s art and freedom to express oneself in music,fashion,and most specially your mind!

  37. tootee says:

    Um, what should be said here is, shut the f*** up all you idiots.
    Zero wrong with she said. It’s the truth, and her reality and bond to her mother which I hear is very strong.
    So yeah, stfu, all you do-nothing-but-sling-mud jealous fools.

  38. PaulT says:

    It’s hard to believe people are making so much of her looks and dress. What difference does it make? As a musician, I listen to her; she just happens to be beautiful. Shall we chastise for it? Charles Dickens was considered by many at the time, because of his colorful and flamboyant dress, to be a fop. He didn’t give a damn and neither should Khatia. Her performances are wonderful and shouldn’t be judged by her dress. Let it be, folks, and just listen. She can feel and say what she pleases and if she puts deeper meaning into her work than what you’d like, frankly, too bad; it’s gratifying to see passion. If you’re so bothered by her, go out and become a virtuoso and then show her a thing or two. I doubt you will.

  39. Ken G. says:

    Love Khatia. She is drawing my friends, men and women, who have had little or no interest in classical music. She is fantastic in my book.

  40. Laurence Mitchell says:

    I have suddenly discovered Khatia Buniatishvili . Yes she is possibly the most alluring and provocative instrumentalist I have ever seen. However reading some of the comments here I feel there is no need to be vindictive about her talent just because she is strikingly beautifully sensual in the way she displays herself. For me she brings on another effect that I can reap the benefit from and that is the condition Alexithymia that helps me deal an effective blow to the tremendous emotional traumas that have occurred in my children’s past. From my perspective carry on being as provocative as you wish to be Khatia, it is the healing qualities you display that interest me!

  41. Max Allan says:

    Khatia is doing what was in the past. That is grabbing the interest of the “average Joe/Jane” on the street who listens to whoever is dishing out the so-called music of today, and showing them that classical music can be AWESOME rather than something just to get loaded on.

    She looks great, it seems her attitude is spot on, and I can’t take my eyes off her, or any part of her for that matter. So, you who complain about her attire? Go bite yourself and listen and watch her hands.

  42. Andrew says:

    I wonder what Sir Thomas Beecham would have made of it? Well he did have a comment about women in concerts. It is funny to watch all those old men concentrating fiercely on the music scores in front of them.. . From some angles, especially the violas she can look practically nude with her assets bouncing around over the piano , well there has to be some compensation for being a viola player….sorry about that! I can’t disapprove, just relax and enjoy it and don’t be uptight about it, if you don’t like it go and watch someone else instead.

  43. Max Allan says:

    Let’s get down to the bone. I used to dislike “classical music” something fierce. I’ve been a full time musician 50 years, from studios to shows, to Vegas. I KNOW what it takes to be at the musical level Khatia is at. She has raised the bar of “excellence” as only a handful of musicians have reached, ever. I could care less about what she wears.NOW….I accept Classical music and have learned to love it, so thank you Khatia.
    Bravo.

  44. Andrew Mackay says:

    Somebody once said if you’ve got it , flaunt it! Admire the talent and musical interpretations she brings to her playing. I have seen some of her performances live and she has changed her style and become a little more modest with what she does but this does not detract form the wonderful pianist that she is ( and her sister too!). I hope to see her recital in May 2017 in London.

  45. Robert Yoxen says:

    Andrew,
    could not agree more, khatia has developed into a pianist who is at the
    very top of her art. I feel that the negative comments about her dresses
    from some these purists/critics should turn their attention to these young
    pianists’ from the east hardly covering their matchless legs with micro
    skirts. Mind you if khatia dancing her fingers over her Joanna played in
    a bikini then I for one would complain. Might see you Andrew I have my
    ticket for the Queen Elizabeth hall in may.

    Rob,born in the Royal Free

  46. Antony Cannell says:

    If one cannot appreciate Khatia’s delightful beauty, incredible talent and skill, how can that person appreciate her music. Those who cannot, should close their poor eyesight and simply listen, or stay away, allowing matchless pleasure to those who can.

  47. Helen says:

    Talented and lovely she is–but, alas, like many pop stars, not a deep critical thinker. Better to squeeze herself into Spanx, go play the concert, and communicate solely through the music.Thank you, Khatia.

  48. John Clarkson says:

    I don’t understand the fuss? She plays the piano technically very well in her own style. I like it. Now women are no doubt jealous of her because women are natural enemies (if you think all that girlie behaviour where they appear to be friends is real think again). But what I cannot figure out is men being upset by her fashion sense. All her dresses are perfectly fine. We are not living in Victorian Britain. If you alleged guys are put off by this then don’t watch her videos or attend her concerts. She doesn’t force you. If you don’t like her views, again you can leave or not listen. She plays some great music.


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