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Khatia Buniatishvili

Not until last year did I discover the pianist Khatia Buniatishvili. There are many recordings of her concerts on YouTube, and I have listened to almost all of them. Living here in the sticks as I do now, it would be a great overreach for me to claim that she is our greatest living pianist. But I will say (with gratitude for the many concert videos to be found on YouTube) that she is the greatest living pianist that I have heard.

Buniatishvili, according to the Wikipedia article, was born in Georgia in 1987. She started piano lessons, with her mother, at the age of 3. I believe she now lives in Paris. She clearly is in great demand in Europe’s concert halls, and she is a regular at the annual Verbier Festival in Switzerland. Her repertoire is decidedly and unapologetically romantic. Her style is a touch theatrical, in a good way.

My own musical talent is limited, but I was born with a good ear for both language and music. With the exception of my years in San Francisco, where the urban noise was terrible, I have taken good care of my hearing over the years and have no hearing loss. Except when the cat has something to say to me, these days I live mostly in silence. I never listen to music as a “background.” Listening to music requires our full attention and concentration. Audio-only recordings, as good as they can be, can never capture a full musical experience. For that, one must be in the same room as the musicians. When that’s not possible, well-recorded concert videos can come close. Of the various forms of social media, I like YouTube best. There’s plenty of garbage on YouTube, certainly. But the garbage is easy to ignore. YouTube’s search function is pretty good, with just enough imprecision to find things that you didn’t exactly search for but that are good finds nevertheless.

I have enough experience with Europe and Europeans to lament the quality of education that most Americans receive. Music has almost vanished from our public schools. Few Americans ever really master a foreign language. Today, a billion people speak English as a second language, but there are only 400 million people for whom English is the first language. Presumably, Buniatishvilli’s first language is Georgian. She speaks English very well, and her French is even better. She also speaks German. Only a tiny percentage of Americans have access to the kind of privilege and educations they would need to attain so much by the age of 34.

If you have 35 minutes to spare, I highly recommend the performance below of the Beethoven piano concerto. Notice how carefully Buniatishvili listens to the orchestra. Notice how she flirts with the orchestra. Notice how much fun she is having. The conductor, too, is remarkable and is clearly having a grand time. Notice how the conductor, Marin Alsop, often turns back to the orchestra with a smile on her face when the music passes from the piano back to the orchestra. I get the impression that they all had so much fun in rehearsals that they will feel sad when the performance ends.

By the way, in our noisy world, I think that a good pair of noise-canceling headphones is a must, both for preserving some silence and for listening to music. Apple’s noise-canceling headphones are extremely expensive, but the Anker Soundcore Q20 headphones are a bargain at $54.

With the Orchestre de Paris:

An encore at the Verbier festival:

Speaking English:

Speaking French:

Speaking German:


  1. Jo wrote:

    What a performance! I chose a quiet time and listened to the entire performance. Just imagine being there!! While living across the Cooper River, I had season’s tickets to the Charleston, SC Symphony. This brought back special memories. Thanks so much for posting. This is the best concert I have ever seen/heard and I enjoyed it so much.

    Saturday, January 1, 2022 at 1:14 pm | Permalink
  2. daltoni wrote:

    Hi, Jo: Buniatishvili is an extraordinary musician. She clearly thrills the orchestras and conductors she plays with and brings out the best in everyone. I miss concert halls (and chamber music) very badly. I am making a goal of attending the Verbier Festival at some point in the future and attending a Buniatishvili concert.

    Saturday, January 1, 2022 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

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