The Beyoncé of the piano? It’s a French shootout

The Beyoncé of the piano? It’s a French shootout


norman lebrecht

September 24, 2022

That will be Khatia Buniatishvili, if you believe her latest promo-doc on French televsion.

Yuja Wang, however, is not taking this sitting down.

She is in Paris for this latest publicity shot.


  • Tony Sanderson says:

    I think Khatia wins this round.

  • Anthony Sayer says:

    That can’t be Khatia B. for two very good reasons.

  • E.R. says:

    Beautiful shot!

  • soavemusica says:

    Yuja Wang seems ready to build a castle you have never seen before, like all 5-year-olds at the beach/sandbox.

  • lamed says:

    There’s an astounding number of youtube videos of Khatia Buniatishvili in Paris in all sorts of TV programs, I had no idea the French had such a love affair with her.

    I always thought the French loved severe pianism, like Pierre Laurent Aimard with his eternal Boulez notations, so this turn to sensuous pianism is quite an eye opener.

  • Ludwig's Van says:

    There’s no comparison to be made here: Take away Yuja’s skimpy outfits and physical attributes, and you still have a superior musician. Take away Khatia’s T&A, her pretty face & slinky gowns, and you’re left with a keyboard-bashing clown.

    • Couperin says:

      You nailed it.

    • Genius Repairman says:

      Calling Khatia a piano bashing clown is a bit harsh. I do not generally like her interpretations but she can certainly play a piano better than most of us. One thing people forget is that it is incredibly difficult to become a full time virtuoso pianist. There are thousands of people around the world who can play the piano superbly but unless you have a certain charisma, are insanely good or find some kind of affectation that gets noticed you cannot make it your career. Khatia has found her niche as has Lang Lang. Yuja certainly chose her wardrobe carefully because it got her noticed. Now her talent is so obvious she has eclipsed her image and many people listen to her despite her clothes, not because of it.

  • Montblanc says:

    Unlike Yuja, who keeps expanding her repertoire and has a full calendar of important dates, Khatia has been playing the same small handful of concertos for years. She keeps canceling actual concerts (such as Vancouver last week) for photo shoots, sponsor events or TV appearances. Lovely and talented as she is, she’s ceased to be a serious artist and musician.

  • Mystic Chord says:

    It’s a shame – one is developing her talent whilst the other is watering it down. When I saw KB play the Schubert B flat Major a few years back at the Barbican I was convinced she is a serious and committed performer. Since then I don’t see any development of her artistry and her May recital this year at the Barbican was *so* underwhelming I felt she was almost on auto pilot, with a very familiar and risk free programme for the fawning masses. I worry her persona is becoming more important than the music and is taking her to a very mainstream and comfortable safe place …

    Yuja on the other hand has dazzled me with everything from Liszt to Gershwin and seems quite fearless in her choice of repertoire. Her playing has a boundless energy and zest to it that few can match and I can say she was electric at the Proms last month.

  • Jon says:

    Although that YouTube video appears to have been posted a few days ago, the fatuous comparison to Beyoncé comes from a French TV show first shown in 2017, so is at least five years old.

    As others have stated, there is no comparison between Yuja, who is a fantastic musician, and Khatia, who isn’t.

  • Mecky Messer says:

    Its delicious how Classical music has become so irrelevant it needs to contextualize its “stars” with pop culture icons for any hopes of differentiation. Its small thinking and a perfect metaphor for the current state of the arts.

    Imagine someone introducing a young Barenboim as “the Elvis of the Baton”….

    It’s come a long way. One day more, one day closer to oblivion.

  • David K. Nelson says:

    I think both are talented, but so are (and were) many artists whose physical appearance, if it is noticed or remembered at all, is or was so secondary. (Pop quiz: was Lili Kraus “gorgeous,” or just “glamorous,” or was she simply a fine pianist? To even care about the first two now seems almost absurd, although I do recall the gasps at Kraus’s beautiful gowns when she would walk on stage.)

    It is a horrible trap to be in, even if partly of their own making. My hunch is that this is one consequence of performance videos /YouTube pushing mere audio recordings aside.

    At the risk of seeming grouchy, or worse yet, “woke,” the world of music (classical as well as pop) seems stuck in a form of the most simple-minded leering sexism and (while I normally do not like faddish terms such as this one) crude and obvious lookism, beyond even what the movies and early television indulged in. It goes way beyond, or way below rather, a fairly natural (in the most literal meaning of that word) appreciation for physical attractiveness.

  • M McGrath says:

    The battle of the tacky and the tasteless.