The ‘Beyoncé of classical music’ suggests music for pre-sex

Khatia Buniatishvili, appearing live this week on Le Petit Journal, was described by presenter Yann Barthès as being ‘like Beyoncé, with the physique of a Hollywood superstar.’

He asked her to play music for different occasions, including ‘pour faire l’amour’.

She obliges, pouting, at 5:30:

(Apparently, Piazzolla does the trick.)

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    • Ah, but who really knows? Brahms remained a lifelong supporter and personal friend of Johann Strauss II – and went to all his premiers and balls, even when himself in extreme ill-health.

      Although his own music was miles away from Strauss waltzes, Brahms had a personal fondness for frivolity and light-heartedness.

      • Yes, but to use one of Brahms’s most profound pieces from his Opus 117 (which he called “Lullabies to my sorrows”) for the occasion of “faire l’amour” is utterly cheap and illustrates KB’s bad taste. She is discrediting and trivializing this divine piece of music that in many ways is the opposite of frivolous and light-hearted.

        • Never mind what the composer says about his own music: words, even the ones uttered by greatest composers, cannot account for the multiple inner depts of their works, which are intrinsically far beyond their titles and the comments made about them and allow as many various receptions.

          To wit: Debussy put the titles of his piano preludes at the end of each of the scores to prevent them from influencing the interpretation. Therefore, Ms. Buniatishvili can chose whatever she wants to illustrate what she considers best to make love to.

          I personnally would have gone with Liszt’s Bénédiction de Dieu dans la Solitude. It just goes to show how you can appear paradoxical to others if they limit their thinking to mere words and definitions…

          • It’s interesting that you mention Liszt’s Bénédiction de Dieu. I have long thought that this is one of Liszt’s very finest piano compositions, up there with the B minor Sonata, and all too sadly neglected.

            As to the matter in hand, however, personally I would go with Scriabin’s 8th Piano Sonata…..that relentlessly repetitive thrusting motif which grinds on and on….well, you get the drift I’m sure.

          • I’m not “limiting my thinking” — I just respect great Art. You, on the other hand, are adulterating it with your relativizations.

          • I simply don’t think in such absolute (read: authoritarian) terms.

            Great art can pretty much stand for itself in successive ages (as amply demonstrated throughout History) without being considered as some sacred Holy Grail that needs to be preserved in some sort of unadulterated purity (or, more to the point, from becoming “degenerate”).

            We know too well where it leads when certain people attempt to turn their own mental crutches (or, if you prefer, neurosis masquerading as morals) into everyone’s law: the very suppression of art and freedom through the reassuring security of dogma.

            No one is shoving Ms Buniatishvili’s harmless performances down your throat. If indeed she is wrongheaded and butchers the classics for her own purposes, she will simply be forgotten in due time as she will fade away in a few years and the greatness of the music will remain without the need of anyone’s pathetic, uncalled for, narcissistic and self-righteous grandstanding.

          • You can insinuate whatever you want, but my point is: more and more classical musicians are cheapening, commercializing and trivializing great music for their own purposes, both in how they present it and how they interpret it. This is very much the “Zeitgeist”, and you must be blind/deaf to not see/hear that. It’s not a question IF Buniatishvili butchers the classics for her own purposes, that’s exactly what she DOES!
            The “greatness of the music” will be nowhere if there will be no more worthy modern great, profound performers who can do it fully justice!
            The owner of this blog his every right to ridiculize vulgar classical musicians like this one, who bring down great Art to the level of sheer amusement and entertainment.

          • There’s no need for such an apocalyptic state of mind because the phenomenon is far from new or even dominant in any new way.

            I remember, in the late seventies, early eighties, records such as a disco version of Beethoven’s Fifth were big hits or, even worse, an atrocious WHOLE ALBUM that topped the charts for many weeks that was called «Hooked on Classics» which sold MILLIONS of copies. If I remember well, two more volumes closely followed…

            You couldn’t cheapen or diminish classical music more than that and nothing since then has in my opinion ever gone lower as an attempt to «democratize» it: about a 100 of the most famous classical themes were linked non-stop to one another without any development of any sort with a completely artificial and annoying 4/4 beat in the background. Pure, cynical, demeaning commercialism at its worst. In order to go lower than that you would need to «play» the classics with fart sounds.

            So, what’s left of it now? Maybe you could even argue that it introduced some people to classical music who otherwise would never have bothered. Who knows? Who cares?

            You might begin to have a point if someone remotely suggested that it was the way to the future that should be repeated forever at the expense of real, serious and dedicated musicians but it never happened of course and never will. Needless to say the classics have indeed survived to this slaughter and thrived more than ever after with advent of CDs. At worst some of the mystique has since been lost but that’s far from tragic. In the end you must trust the people’s intelligence more than you do even if the most idiots (or entertaining) on and offstage are always the noisiest. The novelty appeal never lasts that long…

          • I wish I could share your optimism, “SEEKER64”, but unfortunately I can’t. I think the future of classical music looks rather grim — if only because there are less and less great performers left. I know this is subjective (talking about music always is) but in the 1980s there were dozens of truly great pianists whom I wanted to hear live whenever it was possible for me to go…but now, there’s only a handful or less left. The popularity of this lady (whom in my opinion is a very poor musician) is just another sign that bad taste is prevailing. Then there is the decline of what used to be quality labels (DGG for example), the constant cutbacks (at least in the US and Europe) in classical orchestras, ensembles, broadcasting, criticism, education, musical instrument manufacturing companies etc. etc. The definition of what is “classical” is evolving rapidly into something much broader, melding with other genres, in an attempt to attract new audiences who don’t care much for a classical concert as we used to know it several decades ago. I know I know, I’m complaining too much. 🙂
            Personally, I almost don’t go to any concert anymore. I cherish my huge CD collection (mainly historic recordings)…

          • Erwin- staying home and listening to CDs is one of the many reasons symphonic concerts have been declining attendance (at least in the US). If we don’t go, how can we expect them to survive? Even the great pianists of the past had to start somewhere!

          • One last little thing.

            There ARE still indeed unbelieveable artists and performances that are juste as good as the so-called «legendary» performances of the past.

            Just two recent examples: last Thursday, I heard Trifonov play Prokofiev’s Third Concerto with Nagano conducting (I live in Montreal) and it was sheer emotional electricity, I still get goosebumps just thinking about it… and the guy is just 25!

            On record, if you want to believe that warhorses can keep on giving, try Beethoven’s Fifth and Seven with the Pittsburgh Symphony under Manfred Honeck (Reference Recordings): the shock is just (it was at least for me) as if you heard them for the first time… and we know what the right first times can do to people… 😉

            And I could go on and on… For example this amazing Winterreise by Florian Boesch (Onyx) never fails to bring me much further than DFD ever could… The latest Water Music by the Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin is by far the best I have ever heard. And don’t get me started on the complete Beethoven Quartets by the Belceas on Blu-ray… I might as well stop right away…

            If you know where to look and are willing to open yourself, today’s classical world is really worth it.

        • William, you are absolutely right, but I’m selfish…I’ve attented so many concerts and very often they were quite disappointing, so I mostly consider it a waste of time & money…BUT there are still exceptions, and in those cases I definitely go.

        • Dear Erwin,

          I think you might have entered a period of life when you cannot catch again a distant glimpse of the ecstasy you felt through your first musical revelations, therefore believing in some «lost paradise» that gets further away from your mental grasp as time goes by…

          Of course, it is somewhat hard to accept that our own inevitable decline is the source of such depressing thoughts so we might as well pretend that the whole world is crumbling down around us while it actually goes on without us… Isn’t a CD collection (any collection actually) some ideal parallel world that we build for ourselves in order to escape this cold hard truth?

          I suggest that you read this far from perfect book, which provides an interesting perpective on the whole thing: http://www.amazon.com/This-Your-Brain-Music-Obsession/dp/0452288525/ref=cm_cr_arp_d_pdt_img_top?ie=UTF8

          With 316 customer reviews, most of them positive, I guess the guy gets a thing or two right…

          • Dear SEEKER64,
            Yes, there ARE still some great performers, but the number is getting less and less, as I’ve written before.
            The examples you mention don’t strike me as particularly outstanding, though they are (sometimes) enjoyable and of good quality. The Belcea Quartet is very good indeed!
            I gave you enough examples of why the world of classical music in general IS crumbling down, and I could mention many more…(the ongoing crisis in modern composing and the larger and larger gap between composer and audience/society is another one, see http://isj.org.uk/from-revolution-to-irrelevance-how-classical-music-lost-its-audience/).
            And I disagree with your analysis about “lost paradise” or “opening up”, it has very little to do with that.
            In order to be able to understand how I think, I should mention that I studied music professionaly for 5 years at a good Conservatory in Europe. I spent a great deal of time thinking about how the great composers should be interpreted. No doubt that made me a very critical and, I hope, an informed listener. And for the rest it also boils down to personal taste and preference, of course. But I don’t think I “idealize” the great performers I heard when I was about 20-30 years old. They WERE simply more profound, more convincing, more moving, more human, more tasteful etc. etc. than what I hear nowadays (although the technical level today is sometimes higher), and that is IMO true for instrumentalists, singers and conductors.

          • Again, I must agree with SEEKER64 here. The difference between performers of half-century ago and now is not that those dead ones were more “profound” or whatever, but that the demands and standards have changed. We all agree that technical mastery is generally higher now. Interpretational style, on the other hand, was far more individualistic then than it is now. These days, because of universal availability of recorded performances, everyone knows how things “should” go and therefore it is much more difficult for performers to express their individuality while at the same time staying true to composers’ intentions as they are perceived in this early part of 21st century. Consequently, our preferences depend on our tastes and our tastes are usually shaped during our younger years, although of course there are certain subtle changes that may occur later in our lives. In my opinion, there are more exceptionally good performers today than there were in the middle of last century and it does not bother me that now they are not that “recognizable” individually as those were. If your priority is to admire the performer, then you might miss those distinct personalities of yesteryear. For me, the priority is to hear the music being performed in the best possible way, which for me means – as interpretationally interesting and technically pure as possible while staying reasonably true to composers’ styles. And I am aware of far more outstanding performers and performances these days than I have time to enjoy while I am still living an active and busy life of a professional musician.

          • To: M2N2K
            Your comment shows again how incredibly personal listening to classical music is. I completely with your statement “the priority is to hear the music being performed in the best possible way, which for me means – as interpretationally interesting and technically pure as possible while staying reasonably true to composers’ styles.” But this is *exactly* why I mainly prefer to listen to these “more individual” performers of the past, who were often closer to the composer’s intentions and who, at least when they were pianists and violinists, were very often on a much *higher* technical level, if you define technique as something that is much more than only “playing the right notes”.

          • Without a doubt, technique is much more than playing the right notes. It is also the ability to play them the “right” way whatever that is in the context of a particular piece and its interpretation. We don’t know exactly what all those dead composers’ intentions were but we do know thanks to logic and common sense that the more individualistic the playing is the more likely it is to stray farther from the text which is the only credible expression of those intentions that we have. Therefore less of the ubiquitous “individuality” allows performers to stay closer to the text and, perhaps even more important, to the spirit of the music (which comes from nowhere else but the text itself) – provided of course that the playing is of a very high quality in terms of interpretation and realization.

          • The word “technique” comes from the Greek word “techne”, originally meaning “art”, “craft”. That already indicates that it is also related to artistic matters, for example to tone production, phrasing, expression.
            I would rather say the opposite: very often, the more “literal” and “unpersonal” a performance is, the further it is removed from the true spirit of the composer and of the composer’s intentions. The written text is not sacrosanct, not absolute. Very often, interpreting a score just “literally” is completely false, as many stylistic matters cannot be expressed with indications only. In older music, there is always the element of improvisation that is nowhere to be found in the score. Composers took for granted that interpreters knew these things.
            Also, there is always an element in the art that is beyond time, beyond history, beyond the author himself. In this element the interpreter finds his/her freedom, but freedom within certain (stylistic) boundaries. The interpreter, in my opinion, is not only a ‘notary’, executor of the will, but also a ‘lover’. He gives life to a loving relationship with the piece, in which he transfers his spirituality, his culture, his knowledge & understanding of it. A great piece of art cannot completely be explained by just logic and common sense…

          • No one here attempted to “explain art by logic and common sense” – only to make distinctions between listeners’ preferences. The crucial question in this is “how much?”. How far from the text should one go in search of that “true spirit” before one ends up playing or singing something that distorts the piece or even sometimes works against the expressive content of it? There is no argument between us about the fact that text is not everything. All I am saying is that to me the text should be the basis of the interpretation of composers’ intentions and not the basis of expression of the performer’s individuality. In certain exceptional cases the interpretative imagination of the greatest performers is so original and powerful that even seemingly excessive liberties they take are forgivable because they manage to reveal aspects of the music that we did not know were there. But those are exceptions that do not undermine the general rule: composer is the boss and the only way we have to get to the piece’s artistic content is through the text. Perhaps one of the main reasons I feel that way is that my teacher was one of those great musicians of last century who, in spite of unmistakeable individuality of his interpretational approach, was several decades ahead of his time in understanding ultimate importance of always being true to, and respectful of, the musical text. Before the end of 18th century, composers did not feel a need to be specific and literal in including many instructions for the performers of their music, but that is only because for the most part they were the performers themselves or at least were participating in performances of their compositions by directing them as conductors or otherwise. The more performers were becoming separated from composers which was happening increasingly in the 19th century, the more detailed composers’ instructions became, including, among many other things, tempo, articulation, volume, even the character itself. That is not an accident but an indication of the extreme importance of everything that is part of every piece’s text.

          • Yes, M2N2K, I think in general we agree! But… 🙂

            In musical interpretation, if you overstep certain boundaries you will become a charlatan, a caricature. There must be a balance between composer and interpreter, and the latter shouldn’t dominate too much while performing. There must be freedom, insight, creativity AND integrity. It’s all about good taste but that is very very difficult (if not impossible) to define objectively. I don’t buy the distortions of a Lang Lang, but I do except the liberties of a Josef Hofmann, simply because, like you say, for me he was one of those “exceptional cases”…

            The text is the basis indeed. And I don’t mean just the printed “Urtext”, but the composer’s autograph if available. One can learn so much by just looking at the handwriting! Fortunately there are more and more manuscripts digitally available.

            However, one could also argue that “The text” is a fluid matter, ever-changing, even if it apparently seems something firm, fixed forever. This problem can not be reduced to rational schemes. There are always imponderables. Every era has its own aesthetics. There are always certain characteristics of style, certain musical elements, certain thoughts that cannot be written down, in whatever century this composer was born. And as Busoni put it, once a musical idea is notated, transcription of an abstract idea has already occurred…

            What is “true to the musical text”? Even what seems to be “objective” is often a projection of our own prejudices.
            if we could listen to Beethoven playing, or Mozart, or Chopin, probably we would be stunned, there would be disbelief. Maybe we would exclaim: “THIS is the style of Beethoven??”

            So one can also say that neither the performer nor the composer are the most important. It’s the *transcendence* that is revealed in the artwork, through the medium of the composer, the performer, and the instrument or voice…therein lies the very essence of art. And that’s why I prefer many of these individualistic performers of yore, who often served more the “spirit” than the “letter”, while at the same time having enormous culture, insight, skills and what I consider good taste.

          • We are indeed very close on most of these points except for the conclusions, which is probably less surprising that it may seem considering the subjectivity of the matter. Still, it seems rather remarkable to me that after describing criteria with which I can hardly argue, because it is so similar to mine, you manage to arrive at a nearly opposite verdict. Mine feels more optimistic and I am quite pleased about that.

  • I certainly “see” her talent, but I don’t hear it: Her massacre of Stravinsky’s “Danse Russe” lacks any trace of rhythm – ditto for Ravel’s La Valse, and her painful distortions in the Brahms Intermezzo – all are hallmark’s of this lady’s irresponsible musicianship. This poor girl is in dire need of good teaching & discipline if she is to be taken seriously for anything other than her physical attributes. Sadly, the 4-hand duet at the end demonstrates that her talents are best suited for the circus and TV variety shows.

  • Completely agreed with Steinway fanatic, she told that Oleg Maisenberg was her only teacher in the West and knowing him from his teens I understand where poor musicality comes. Or maybe it’s too late for her to sober up.

  • So, there’s no value in showing the piano’s capabilities and a selection of the repertoire to a non-specialist audience watching a general-purpose tv show? As far as sexing it up, she wouldn’t be the first.

  • Difficult to say who assumes the most pre-coital pose at the instrument: this one, Youjar Bang, or Olga Scraps.

    • One imagines that if the so-called interview had been with the redoubtable Mr. Bang instead, the amount of billing and cooing between host and purported pianist would have been somewhat reduced.

  • She is beautiful and seemingly charming. She appeared to entertain the audience and play some good music for the TV viewers. My guess is that most did not recoil from her playing.

  • As a matter of fact, I have always found Brahms has a sensual side so the choice “pour faire l’amour” seems to me entirely apt.

  • Those who criticize pianists who appear on popular shows or show themselves off to best advantage should remember that “our” music is an endangered species which it is more important to keep alive than subject to trivial sniping.

  • Unfortunately, she really butchered the Stravinsky, and the tiny snippet of Ravel did not fare much better – but the rest was rather decent. In principle, I believe that this kind of “popularizing” approach is not a bad idea and I agree with SEEKER64 above here: great classics will survive without any problems while a few listeners and viewers might give classical music a chance as a result.

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