Khatia’s love story gets heckled in London

Khatia’s love story gets heckled in London


norman lebrecht

May 15, 2022

From Tony Sanderson:
The programme notes for Khatia Buniatishvili’s recital at London’s Barbican Centre this evening told us she was taking us on a journey. An unexpected twist in the journey was that she had to make the journey from love through rejection and back to love again.
From the outset it was clear that this was a recital with a difference as Khatia drew us into her inner world by crafting the musical textures and drawing out the melodic line which created its own tension. There seemed to be a bitter-sweet quality to her playing that seemed new.
However her decision to lengthen the melodic line in Schubert’s Impromptu No.3 and then Schubert/Liszt’s proved too much for one concert goer who shouted sh*t. The tempo was clearly an artistic decision by the pianist and was always likely to be controversial, She showed us she is perfectly capable of playing fast and rhythmically, as she showed in Vladimir Horowitz’s arrangement of Liszt’s second Hungarian Rhapsody and the Precipitato from Prokofiev’s seventh piano sonata. However, in a large hall such as the Barbican Centre a greater projection of the music would not have come amiss. At the end, her many fans gave her a standing ovation with the lone dissenter long gone.


  • Gabe Blessing says:

    What utterly disgusting, boorish behavior. As remarked upon in another, recent post, classical music aficionados can be some of the most arrogant, entitled, self-righteous and repugnant people on Earth. I should know, as I had to deal with many of them when I worked at a classical music shop, to the point I was once even physically attacked by one of them because he claimed I looked at him “in a hostile manner”, whatever that means. I hope the man who shouted that was ejected from the venue rather than voluntarily leaving. Enough of this despicable behavior!

    For what it’s worth, yes, she has a tendency to play Schubert *very* slowly, as evidenced by her recording of D. 960. Excoriated in many quarters as expected, I found much of her performance mesmerizing, even if it may not be a “proper” reference version. I applaud her willingness to take risks when the current art of interpretation has become largely ossified and homogenized in the search for interpretive correctness above all. Brava, Khatia.

    • Barry Guerrero says:

      I worked in the same industry for several decades. If somebody had physically assaulted me, I would have called the police immediately. As a manager, I did have to call the police from time to time. There were times when a ‘customer’ would be so abusive, that I was forced to make the following speech: “I will give a choice. Either leave the store now, or I will have the police come and escort you out. It’s your choice”. Quite frankly, I found the nicest customers to be the heavy metal ones (back when I was in a non-classical only store). Seriously. Jazz people can get pretty snobby as well.

    • Jacques says:

      Did you look at him in a hostile manner?

    • MPMcGrath says:

      Boorish behavior is human – whether one likes “classical” music or not. Why do you expect differently? That which is transforming our society doesn’t make halt at the concert hall and opera house doors.

      I don’t understand why “afficionados” as you describe have to be more serene and cultured and decent and what not. War and inhumanity has often been dressed in the wardrobe of so-called “cultured” individuals versed in music and literature and Kultur, fawning over upstart dictators promising a better and more just world to that audience.

  • Santipab says:

    The discerning concert choice in London last night was the Doric Quartet’s Bartok at Wigmore Hall. Extraordinarily committed and brilliant playing, completely at the service of the music, which packed a huge emotional punch.

  • Duncan says:

    Khatia is one of a number of performers who feel the need to ‘take us on a journey’ with their music making. Whether or not this adds to the listener’s musical experience is open to debate. Nevertheless there is no excuse for rudeness on the part of the audience. It is unacceptable. She is a very fine pianist and her controversial musical choices place her in a long and distinguished line of performers. With great talent often comes eccentricity.

    • MPMcGrath says:

      I agree. Joyce Di Donato took is on a journey to Eden at the Barbican recently. One appreciates the voice and tolerates the eccentricity- aren’t we all eccentric? However, when you start to get personal and opinionated with an audience, you invite some interesting new behaviors.

      • Opus 30 says:

        I saw Eden as well. I found all the playing around with the rings onstage, the singing while laying down and barefooted distracting. An we have yet to plant our packet of seeds given out upon exiting.

    • Jobim75 says:

      It seems that music is not enough anymore. Marketing, publicity, she s not the first…..

  • Herr Forkenspoon says:

    If music is to be played only as it has been played, then we only need 1 person per solo instrument, after all, it will be the same every time.

  • Adam Stern says:

    From an online article on tempos in Brahms’ music, posted by The Free Library:

    >> In 1880 Johannes Brahms was asked whether the metronome marks in his German Requiem should be adhered to ‘”strictly”. He rejected the idea, saying, “I think here as well as with all other music the metronome is of no value. … As far at least as my experience goes, everybody has, sooner or later, withdrawn his metronome marks.”

  • Greg Tiwidichitch says:

    Why must reviewers give us all this fluff??….”drew us into her inner world by crafting the musical textures and drawing out the melodic line which created its own tension”. Inner world?? “Drawing out the musical line” Do you mean she played the melody louder and the accompaniment softer?? “Created its own tension”??? Does that mean the melody made use of accented passing notes or appogiaturas?? “Lengthen the melodic line”?? Does that mean she changed the note values to be longer??? I’m a trained classical musician and none of this is clear at all, let alone to the average person reading this stuff. Is there some unwritten code for musical reviewers that they need to hoodwink the public by serving up fluff like this to make it sound like they are speaking the King’s english to the common man????

    • M McAlpine says:

      I thought that too!

    • Simon Willis says:

      I think lengthening the melodic line is critic speak for playing very slowly . My home performances of Chopin are famous for this. Funny this is I can play that Schubert impromptu at the right tempo. The tricky bit is not letting the right hand figurations on the “strong “ thumb and fingers sound too loud . It’s amazing how many really good pianists can’t manage it…

    • Musicman92261 says:

      These are excellent observations! It’s about time someone asked such questions.

  • Angie Dawn says:

    I sat behind the ‘boorish’ audience member referred to. I was a latecomer and allowed in between pieces. The usher showed me where my seat was. He whispered and I nodded my head in thanks. The man referred to turned round and rather aggressively shouted ‘sssh’. Later, he left, climbing over the seat in front of me. He shouted ‘this music is shit’. It was clear as he moved to the exit that he was not sober. He was unstable on his feet and almost confused.
    I think he was already in a belligerent mindset and possibly drunk. . It was witnessed by a member of staff in the auditorium.

  • Anthony Sanderson says:

    115 positive comments on her Facebook page sbout the comcert, such as “Thank you Khatia for such a wonderful performance, it was worth a wait ”

    “I was thrilled to be there. My 5th Khatia concert. We had a wonderful evening. Come to the north of England next time!! xxx”

    “I was there! What a performance! – despite a rather badly behaved audience at times. I so look forward to the next London appearance.”

    “Thank you for a wonderful evening! And as I said to you afterwards, please come to Lisbon soon! X”
    “Absolutely breathtaking Performance . Thank you Khatia ”

    So many more. The love story had a happy ending for sure.