Don’t shoot the pianist. Just sh*t on her

Don’t shoot the pianist. Just sh*t on her


norman lebrecht

April 28, 2022

We have been sent a video of the Georgian-French pianist Khatia Buniastishvili performing a Liszt/Horowitz encore at the 2017 George Enescu Festival in Romania.

Khatia’s playing is flamboyant, as ever. The audience is intent and enthusiastic.

But the players in the orchestra make no attempt to hide their boredom or disdain. Starting with the concertmaster and his deputy, who send little glances signifying their contempt, a wave of discourtesy spreads around the musicians in a manner we haven’t seen for a very long time. All of this is captured on television. It’s a case of don’t shoot the pianist, just sh*t on her.

So unprofessional, and so unpleasant.

This might be a festival to avoid.


  • Gareth Jones says:

    To be fair, lint is such a persistent issue when one’s wearing tails….

  • James says:

    The concertmaster smiles at his colleagues twice during the performance…this is inappropriate behavior? This is the Israel Philharmonic btw.

    Oh well, thanks for the opportunity to watch a nice performance of Liszt, I guess?

  • Achim Mentzel says:

    The musicians show the only correct reaction to her horrible, sloppy, tasteless and cheesy playing.

    • CJ Ryan says:

      It’s very odd playing indeed.

    • jmay says:

      hmm. a) If they were rude, that’s bad. b) they didn’t seem rude. c) the playing was sloppy d) it’s hungarian rhapsody, a certain manner of slop is okay I think, precision being traded for flamboyance and speed e) all that said, I didn’t really enjoy it, I didn’t like her choices, but I’ll refer back to a).

  • NedK says:

    What a load of rubbish, Norman. The orchestra have to sit there doing nothing while she plays, in full visibility of everyone, including the cameras. They all clap/tap/wave at the end, as required. Fuss about nothing.

    • David Dreebin says:

      I agree with you, NedK. Most of them clapped, but there were two female violin players behind the piano that didn’t, as far as I can see.

  • Jeffrey says:

    Nothing unprofessional here. The posture of the lady sitting principal second is perhaps less than stellar (especially for the cameras) but aside from that, there is nothing questionable here. Orchestral musicians often give each other glances or smiles, especially when a soloist is playing an encore. That’s totally normal and not necessarily disrespectful. If the concertmaster were caught rolling his eyes, that would be another thing. I don’t detect any disdain, contempt, or discourtesy whatsoever. Does somebody have something against the Israel Phil?

    • David Dreebin says:

      Israel Phil too.

    • Peter Smith says:

      Absolutely, I’ve no idea what Mr Lebrecht is on about here. Orchestral musicians are not robots, and a few smiles whilst listening to a performance is surely normal. No one burst out in hysterical laughter and they clapped afterwards. If they didn’t choose to applaud, surely that is their right also.

  • anmarie says:

    At times, during a concert, one can’t help but think of dairy barns.

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      The folks haven’t yet realized that this is what that livery is designed for!! Just like a nun’s habit is designed to do exactly the opposite.

  • alan says:

    OK, so what I heard and saw was: the orchestra sat in passive silence throughout, they did not make faces or gestures during the encore, as I have often seen other orchestras do. I don’t see boredom or disdain. At the end they applauded, as did the audience. What, prey tell, is wrong?
    Furthermore, NL suggests avoiding an entire major festival on the basis of one short youtube clip that he objects to with a trademark sensationalist headline. The Enescu Festival might have something to say about that. In my professional opinion, this could be of interest to a pushy litigator.
    Also interesting that NL has nothing to say on KB’s dress or any comment on her playing. Personally, I enjoyed the performance. The comments on Youtube are also supportive.

    • V. Lind says:

      “Prey”? Think again!

      I have not watched this clip — headline put me off and I am not a fan in particular of this artist — but your comments are reasoned and credible.

  • Titurel says:

    Agree with those who say the players were smiling at her blazing chops, not disdainful at all. BUT: Why the double standard? Poor Yuja gets routinely raked over coals for what she wears, and yet KB’s decolletage isn’t remarked upon? (It’s good she’s nice to look at. I did find it better with no audio, however.)

  • Giora says:

    Well done Norman. With such a title many people read this article and watched the video just to see that NOTHING happened in reality.
    That’s a smart way to improve your audience, and a sloppy way to do journalism.

  • zayin says:

    I watched this video 10 times, and each time, I could only focus on one thing, well perhaps two, but none of which was the faces in the orchestra.

    I may need to watch it for the 11th time to see what NL is talking about.

    (Oh btw, her playing was horrendous each time.)

  • Piano Lover says:

    So I often noticed how orchestral members show boredom even while playing.Look at Yuja Wang playing Prokofiev PC n°2 with Charles Dutoit in 2010!!!!The young violonist in the front yawns (08:07)when cadenza is played!!She did not show any interest at all during the entire performance!!!Was she thinking what she would make for supper at home or bad day or”just-doing-my-job!!!
    They should all get fired and sent to Mac Donalds!!
    Other violonists show same “boredom”.
    Usually orchestral members don’t even show that they like the music they are playing.
    The exception is the Said orchestra founded by Barenboim.

    • Giora says:

      The orchestra with Yuja and Dutoit is the Verbier festival orchestra. The yawning is probably not for lack of interest but for too much partying at Mont Fort pub till early morning..

    • NYMike says:

      I was present @ Yuja’s Carnegie Hall concert during that time. Her playing was sensational and the applause including the orchestra’s was apt.

      • Piano Lover says:

        Yuja’s playing was and is sensational.
        I cannot agree more!
        I was referirng to the concert regarding the violon player yawning madly.

    • Charles Zigmund says:

      I don’t know what you are talking about. On my Roku TV I have the Vivaldi classical music channel and the Qwest Classical channel (both of which by the way are free) and I spend a good deal of my time with them on, working time or leisure. I find the players in many orchestras, most of whom are young, to be serious, dedicated, respectful of soloists and sometimes visibly moved by what they are playing, when they move their bodies, hands and heads with expressive emphasis while playing. You must be on a different planet, Piano Lover. Perhaps, if you are watching older videos of orchestras with older musicians, they get bored as they get older. This would not be surprising as many orchestras trot out the same old warhorses for frequent airings. There is very little imagination in programming; but one notable exception is my local classical station, WMNR-FM. Its excellent and imaginative programming can be found worldwide at It is a godsend of novel and worthwhile discoveries from the less frequented corridors of the standard repertory.

  • Minnesota says:

    Buniastishvili’s performance wasn’t very interesting–just rushed with poor tonal production, and her extremely-rehearsed emoting becomes boring quickly. I thought the orchestra was polite enough in their demeanor. This was also five years ago, BTW.

  • japecake says:

    I watched the entire video, and I find this a very ungenerous and downright strange interpretation of actions and motives. What I saw were a few small, unobtrusive smiles—certainly nothing that should be regarded as distracting or disrespectful. In many shots the concertmaster was perfectly still and apparently attentive. The whole orchestra applauded at the end. Sorry, but this just seems like a bland nonstory ginned up into something it isn’t.

  • Charles Zigmund says:

    i saw only one slight smirk from a musician, not a “wave of discourtesy.” A tiny reaction considering the crassness of the playing and the hair tossed around and covering her face as she practically plasters her face to the keys, as always, to dramatize her tresses. A cheap, glitzy imitation of a pianist who should retire from the concert hall in shame rather than be defended.

    • David Dreebin says:

      It is a bit strong to suggest she should retire from the concert hall. However, as I have already opined, she does appear to play as though it is all about her rather than about collaboration with the orchestra (notwithstanding that this was an encore she was playing). I think her dress sense – albeit it is entirely the choice of a soloist what she wears – seems to emphasise that it was all about her. I agree that the orchestra were not in anyveay discourteous.

  • M McAlpine says:

    Just what on earth are you talking about sir? The orchestral players sat and listened. What are they supposed to do? None of them were chatting or playing cards to my knowledge.
    I note some miserable reviews of the dashing young pianist here. Guys it was an ENCORE and was meant to show off! Give us a break from your whinging!

  • Margaret Koscielny says:

    Didn’t see contempt. But, I wonder, what arrangement was she playing of this piece? She can certainly play the piano, but, am I mistaken, or did she “take some liberties” with the composition?

  • Cassandra B says:

    Clickbait headline BS. Firstly, this performance is 5 years old, hardly newsworthy to criticize now. Secondly, the orchestra is exhibiting standard etiquette for encore behavior: do not distract from the soloist. Picking apart this concertmaster and the politely passive orchestra members is baseless, low-hanging fruit and simply poor writing. Writing about the music would have been interesting. I regret wasting my time on this.

  • Barry Guerrero says:

    Norman, I think you’re skating on thin ice by appointing yourself an arbiter of who should be a professional concert pianist, and who shouldn’t. Furthermore, your picking on Yuja Wang and Kathia B. could be interpreted by many as being thoroughly sexist. Can you play piano anywhere near this good? . . . Maybe guys you and I should stick to Mahler – something we know quite a bit about.

    • Piano Lover says:

      We are amateurs and of course we can’t but yet this is irrelevant question.
      -If reading a novel I would say “”I don’t like it for whatever reason””.
      Would I be asked by you “WOULD I BE ABLE TO WRITE SUCH A NOVEL BETTER???
      -Likewize if standing in front of a famous painting I DON’T LIKE THIS PAINTING BECAUSE THIS AND THAT”
      I think this question to be an insult altogether.

  • Sue Sonata Form says:

    The musician on the right side of the piano is feasting his eyes. Unless they’re all gay, the rest will be doing the same. And this is what is intended.

    Her performance reminds me of this, I have to say: well, maybe not as good!!

  • Gregory Kuperstein says:

    Encore should be short, maybe 3 min. long. The soloist indulges herself for almost 6 min. Professional musicians need a rest, too. No wonder that some in the orchestra might not appreciate that something extra the audiences love.

    • just saying says:

      guess you’ve never been to a Yuja Wang or Evgeny Kissin concert where they give 10 or more “short” encores lol #boom

  • Anonymous Bosch says:

    No one will ever replace the glorious rendition served-up by Dolores Gray in the 1955 MGM musical “It’s Always Fair Weather”:

    And do stay for the song that follows!

    • Nicholas says:

      Comden and Green were geniuses musicwise, lyric wise, and scriptwise. The commoditization of art will always be with us whether satirical or in earnest. Anything to make a buck.

  • Jenni Li says:

    How could anyone be bored with her?? Just stare at her rack if you’re not interested in what she’s playing!

  • Peter Feltham says:

    To what extent is this, more a concert of sexual voyeurism than artistic voyeurism, and if the former does that make it less of an attraction.

  • Jesse Read says:

    What a disrespectful and “unprofessional” blurb. The musicians listen respectfully, to the “flamboyant” (tasteless) performance as expected. To suggest that one avoid a world-class festival using a 5-year old video of an encore…wrong headed arts journalism at best.

    • David Dreebin says:

      Hear, hear! And to suggest that people avoid a whole (world-class) festival on the basis of this is frankly ridiculous.

  • Sam says:

    Allow me just this observation:

    Khatia would give Gal Gadot a run for her money playing Wonder Woman.

  • Ronald Cavaye says:

    It is “unprofessional and unpleasant” to perform an encore when the soloist is merely ONE person in an ensemble. This never used to happen when playing concertos. The orchestra has every right to show its displeasure.

    • David Dreebin says:

      The orchestra’s reaction was entirely appropriate. However, I think it is sometimes in order to play an unobtrusive, short encore. In fact, around 20 years ago, Daniel Barenboim played the slow movement of a Mozart piano sonata, as an encore, very movingly after his concerto performance – which was very well received. However, to play a flamboyant encore to show off one’s piano technique IS inappropriate, and if I were a member that orchestra I wouldn’t have been ecstatic either.

  • music lover says:

    What are you talking about?The Isrel Phil clearly shows its approval and enjoyment at the end of the performance.

  • Jennifer Dyster says:

    Headline doesn’t match video. Annoying because I watched the whole thing looking for contempt and did not enjoy the encore. Without the click bait I would not have passed 60 seconds

    • Richard says:

      Yes, but that performance was worth hearing every 5 minutes of it. I’ve never heard it played with such speed and style. She made the peace her own.
      Even my eyebrows were raising up and down.

  • Byron says:

    She played brilliantly in her own style, and the audience loved her performance. One guy snickered, but who knows what his thoughts were?

    • Richard says:

      I don’t think that was a snicker. I think that was him responding to it how fast she was playing it. Sometimes when something is so incredible, you actually giggle because you can’t believe how incredible it was.
      He wasn’t snickering, because he was smiling. When you snicker, you sneer…

  • Peter says:

    Definite top contender for 2022 clickbait of the year.

    Fun rendition of the Liszt.

  • Richard Zencker says:

    This is nothing compared to what I saw/heard when I had front-row seats to Eschenbach’s debut with the NY Phil. I remember a very peculiar performance of the Pathetique.

  • R.D. Eno says:

    At about 3:17, the concertmaster seems to suppress a smile. Why suppress? The “flamboyant” performance — hot as a Scotch bonnet, which isn’t to everyone’s taste — would have brought a smile, maybe even gales of laughter, to Liszt’s face. It’s an encore — showtime! — and the lady is showing off spectacularly. I appreciate NL’s gallantry, but is it perhaps misplaced? With chops like that, she hardly needs a white knight.

  • Sharon says:

    For many years Israelis have been known for being far more up front and less hypocritical and passive about their feelings than people in most other cultures.

    • John Trasharticle says:

      Reread what you just wrote. If you can’t tell what’s wrong with it then maybe take a history class…

  • EREL says:

    Trying to catch attention with your content, apparently.
    How about you mention the horrid performance of Katia? If the Israeli orchestra shows their contempt maybe it’s because of the race-horse like, unmusical, I-bang-louder-n-faster approach of her?!…

  • Richard says:

    I don’t understand your anger. Those flashes of glances from the eyes of the concert master tell me that he was saying “This is something really good”, or “this is going to be amazing”, especially from the way that his eyes lit up.
    As far as the other violinist, I think he was settling in for a good performance. Sometimes your concert tails will “grab” you from sticking and you have to move them.
    There’s no disrespect going on here. They were settling in for a long encore. The playing was absolutely magnificent. And there is nothing in this video which conveys any other message that it wasn’t from any orchestra member that I could see.
    Maybe if you had played in an orchestra, you might be able to tell the difference. For me, eyes that are flashing are eyes that are realizing something great is happening.
    And the way that you can tell that I am right on this is the way that the concertmaster applauds very vigorously after her performance.
    Stop creating issues which don’t exist. You have done this before. Stop it.

  • Russell Grant says:

    I’m not seeing it. Just looks like people being normal. Manufactured drama.

  • Jonathon says:

    So unprofessional, and so unpleasant. This might be a website to avoid. And the festival should demand an apology.

  • Ar says:

    She is terrible, more of exhibitionist than a true pianist. Everybody know how much she likes to show her breasts… Unprofessional. In addition, she betrayed hello fellow musicians, taking advantage of the situation she became political and threw Russian musicians under the bus to help herself. She doesn’t think we should hear Russian composers .. Terrible. We do listen to German and other composers from countries with not do perfect human rights record. What Tchaïkovski, whom the whole world loves, including children (the nutcracker) has to do with what is happening today? No basic intelligence from this so called pianist, whom some call “the boobs”.

  • christopher storey says:

    It’s easy to see that Norman is not a legs man

  • ALo says:

    Who the heck is Norman Lebrecht and why don’t I care about his opinion?

  • Misanthrope X says:

    What a terrible, clickbait-y website, I wonder, are their any good classical music news sites? This one isn’t.

  • Don Ciccio says:

    Didn’t enjoy the performance too much, but this is one of my favorite festivals. Many international orchestras, and artists in general, play the music of Enescu. What other similar festival is there dedicated to one composer? Perhaps the Mahler Festival in Budapest? The Bach Festival in Leipzig (or, the smaller one in Bethlehem PA?) What else?

  • Arthur Radley says:

    Lovely performance. She’s outstanding. Thanks for posting.

    I don’t get your “disdain” comments, though. Have you ever played in an orchestra? A lot goes on that has zero to do with the performance. I see the violinist is smiling at someone off-camera. Your interpretation that this is contempt for the pianist is entirely conjecture. Their applause at the end looks sincere to me.

  • John Trasharticle says:

    Thr writing school of: Why write anything useful when you can just lie?

  • just saying says:

    I’m proud of myself for not falling for this obvious sensationalist click-bait of a post

  • SoulCollector says:

    I’m new to slippedisc, and if this is the sh!t they let pass through as legitimate I’m already done. Whomever this Normal L is… dude, are you blind, or anti-semetic, or what? Absolutely NONE of what you wrote happened in this clip. Zero.

  • Sir John Falstaff says:

    Nothing here makes sense. Like almost everyone else who commented, I notice nothing untoward in the behavior of the orchestra members. On the contrary, I think they showed admirable restraint given the grotesque performance they had to endure. Boycott the Enescu festival because of a couple ambiguous facial expressions captured by television cameras five years ago? There can be only one explanation for this misplaced chivalry: the voluptuous Eastern European bombshell type is more to Mr. Lebrecht’s taste than the comely, seductive Asian.

  • Ria Calitz says:

    Seems these expert commentators weren’t in the audience because there was actually applause after the performance.Lucky Khatia.

  • Amir says:

    I don’t see anything wrong.
    Moreover, Lebrecht’s recommendation to avoid a festival because of 5 minutes clip taken 5 years ago is not serious journalism.

  • A pianist says:

    I have no idea what you’re talking about re: rudeness. It’s a fairly ridiculous arrangement and hard not to smirk just a little. Then to all these commenters calling this “sloppy”: you must not play the piano well whatsoever. This is not sloppy at all, it’s extremely difficult and probably no one could play this note perfectly without being “safe,” and she doesn’t hold back. It’s an extremely impressive display of virtuosity from her. Anyone calling this “sloppy” is a hack whose brain has been broken by the note-perfect recording industry. This is live performance and it’s like you’d rather have a robot do it.