Wednesday, 18 May 2016

CD Reviews (The Straits Times, May 2016)

Sony Classical 88875170032 / ***1/2

Some repertoire works require to be rethought, redefined and rediscovered, to order to remain fresh and relevant, while some just need to be played period. In a deliberately provocative interview in the sleeve-notes, young Georgian pianist Khatia Buniatishvili spoke of the listener willing himself or herself to be disappointed at the start of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition.

On this point, she succeeds because her opening Promenade is flaccid, and the pacing so static in The Old Castle and Bydlo (The Oxcart) as to be stultifying. Things do pick up in the faster movements, but one wishes she could have left well alone, such as in Sviatoslav Richter's marvellous recordings which let the music speak for itself.

Her interventionist approach does however work for Ravel's La Valse, where she conjures an orchestral sweep and the build-up to final meltdown is palpably exciting. Similarly, the license she takes for Stravinsky's Three Movements from Petrushka serves the narrative well. Her prodigious technique never falters for a moment, but is dance music all about speed, shock and awe?

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