Khatia Buniatishvili: Why I won’t play in Russia

Khatia Buniatishvili: Why I won’t play in Russia


norman lebrecht

August 18, 2016

In an interview with tomorrow’s Paris Match, the Georgian pianist says Putin’s Russia ‘is like the Soviet Union, with imperialism and dictatorship.’


  • Dominique says:

    Funny, because she accepts to play in Abu Dhabi, which is pure autocracy and oppressive dictatorship.

  • David Osborne says:

    Australia takes desperate people fleeing for safety and imprisons them in offshore gulags where they are abused and tortured. Nobody should play there.

  • La Verita says:

    If only she would accord America the same honor…. We should pay her not to play here.

    • esfir ross says:

      In La Verita-veritas. Completely agree. Self delusion,not even pretty, poor taste in music and clothes. Don’t pay attention to her declaration- she’ll change it. When concert’ll dry out she’ll play anywhere. Grow up and shut up.

  • Michael Schaffer says:

    I am having a really hard time here deciding which of the above comments (Mark’s excluded) is the stupidest one.

  • Leo says:

    Words, words, words. She is just not needed, Fox and Grapes by Aesop. Russia still is a land of pianists.

  • David Osborne says:

    The article in question deals with an artist opting to refuse to perform in a particular country due to the behaviour of that country’s government. I was merely pointing out that it’s not just the usual suspects in Russia, countries in the Middle East etc. that have governments capable of intolerable human rights abuses. Sorry to hear you find that stupid.

    • David Osborne says:

      That was supposed to be a reply to Michael Schaffer

    • Michael Schaffer says:

      No need to apologize, David! But yes, it is a little stupid because yes, we do live in a world of injustices and conflicts but it doesn’t help to just point to someone or someplace else whenever that subject comes up. You should look up the term “whataboutism” – you will probably be amused to find out it was a favorite tactic of Russian propaganda during Soviet times – and it is now again!

      But I also agree it wasn’t the stupidest comment, so you are out of that race now. 🙂

      • David Osborne says:

        No need to apologise- You’re kidding right? Now not only is the perfectly valid point I was making ‘stupid’, but I’m being compared to Soviet era Russia, regardless of the fact that I’m being critical of my own Government here. The differences are perfectly obvious to anyone capable of independent thought, but could I be bothered explaining them? Life’s too short. Perhaps just pause next time for a moment to think (check Wikipedia if you feel you have) before you start dishing out the insults.

        • Frankster says:

          David, in the last few days photos and videos have appeared concerning the conditions in “detention facilities” along the Mexican border which house undocumented immigrants awaiting deportation, etc. If you accuse Australia, you should also accuse your own country, which has gone off track morally in the last few decades.

          • David Osborne says:

            I sympathise entirely with your comment Frankster, but I have to point out that I am indeed Australian.

  • MacroV says:

    In response to all the “What-abouts,” Buntiashvili is from Georgia, which has pretty direct experience with Russia’s lack of democracy and imperialist manner. I assume her refusal to play in Russia is as much about how it menaces Georgia as its general lack of democracy. It’s personal. And I imagine Pablo Casals, lionized for refusing to perform in Franco’s Spain, played in some other countries with unsavory governments from time to time.

    • Michael Schaffer says:

      That was roughly my point, too. Or take Toscanini – widely lauded for not appearing in Germany or Italy during fascist times – but he had no problem appearing in the US even though they still had racial segregation going on in many states at the same time.

      • David Osborne says:

        Oh no… Red light flashing, Whataboutism alert! And strangely enough you’re absolutely right about Toscanini. Like Boulez and his colleagues at Darmstadt. We are the anti-fascists, you disagree with our ideas, you must be a fascist. It’s still happening. Case in point, the hysterical reaction to this: (and yes we’re veering way off course now)

    • David Osborne says:

      Yes, exactly that was the other point I wanted to make, there is a certain selectivity on the part of the artist here.

  • La Verita says:

    If she played the way she looks, she might be worth all this fuss, but sadly her work merits no attention whatever. If the conductors & presenters would stop listening with their eyes, her career would be finished.

  • Bruce says:

    Isaac Stern refused to perform in Germany after World War II. Both he and Germany got along just fine.

  • Peter says:

    What a hypocrite nonsense she tells. Have we forgotten already that it were the warmongering imperialist US Neocons around Cheney and Rice who kicked off the short battle between Georgia and Russia, having placed their US trained puppet of a Georgian president first, their military being trained extensively for the coup by US and Israeli military advisors?
    Is she refusing to perform in the US? If not, what is her point? Is this a sales pitch?

  • Oskar says:

    Good one. By all means, let her live and play, but why does every other classical musician in the limelight nowadays think he/she possesses the intellectual capacity of a Rostropovich or a Barenboim, to express his/her political opinion in media ?
    Indeed a horrible loss for Russia 🙂 All the concertgoers from St. Petersbourg to Vladivostok must be in mourning by now…

  • Stephen says:

    You don’t like her looks, you don’t like her playing, you don’t agree with her views? Then look elsewhere; get out your old LPs.

  • BECKY says:

    Someone said Sokolov would not play in China…For the same reason Maybe?

  • Bruce says:

    Copy of a comment I posted back in May (on a thread about the same pianist):

    I think it would be fun (in a perverse way) if male performers were judged on their looks the way female performers are judged on theirs.

    For example, things a male performer should have:
    – beautiful perfect hair
    – beautiful perfect cheekbones
    – straight elegant nose
    – square jaw with firm yet luscious lips
    – broad muscular shoulders & chest
    – beautifully manicured hands
    – classic fitness-model “V” shaped torso
    – tight firm buttocks
    – larger-than-average crotch bulge
    – long muscular legs
    – between 6 feet and 6 feet 4 inches tall

    – The performer would be aware that any deviation from these criteria would be expected to have a noticeable impact on his career (for better or worse, depending).
    – It would be acceptable for any of these to be altered artificially, as long as the result did not look artificial.
    – He would be expected to dress for all performances, and pose for publicity shots & album covers, in a way that displays all of these attributes so that the audience can evaluate them without having to resort to speculation; if he didn’t do so, he could expect limited interest from audiences.
    – BUT if the evaluation was too easy — i.e., not enough left to the imagination — or if he simply meets all these criteria too well, or if he is perceived to be trying too hard to meet them, then it would be assumed that he is trading on his looks, and respect for his technical and artistic accomplishments would be withheld to a corresponding degree.
    – Lastly, audiences & critics would be expected to draw attention constantly to any and all of these visual criteria, while denying that any of it is relevant to their evaluation of the artistic product. This point of view would be accepted as logical and consistent.
    – See more at:

  • esfir ross says:

    The reason not to play in Russia’s economical. The concerts fee’re much smaller than in Abu Dabi. She even will not buy with such money her risque dresses.

  • David Nice says:

    Well, I’ve reached the end of the comments to date and most of them sum up all that’s worst about this sort of thing. Though I’m grateful to Michael Schaffer for alerting me to the term ‘whataboutism’, which sums so much up here.

    On the choice not to play in Russia, yes, it may have to do with her being Georgian but she’s not claiming a Rostropovich-like position of authority. And while many of the other countries mentioned are democracies flawed to varying degrees, Russia is indeed close to Stalinism under Putin.

    On Buniatishvili’s talents, she is IMO wildly erratic but can do wonderful things which justify her position. The only kind of marketable beauty one has a right to complain about is where the music-making doesn’t match up to the looks. Hers does, if only intermittently; Argerich would never have championed her otherwise.

  • Brian Sandle says:

    USA pretends to be friendly. But at the moment megacorporates are taking control.

    After the invasion of Iraq the thousands of years old seed banks were pillaged/destroyed. I understand farmers are allowed very few cops and several of them they do not traditionally eat.

    At home in the USA there is a move to stop people having home gardens producing food.

    Wonderful to hear our music coming out of a culture with generations of contact. Astounding.

  • Michelle says:

    Brian Sandle, What do her piano playing good or bad, or her appearance, good or bad have to do with US citizens not allowed to grow their own food, true or not?
    BTW, she is anything but pretty and certainly lacks class and grace….