Khatia Buniatishvili talks to Tim Woodall ahead of the BBT concert at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on 4th May 2012.
The outstanding young Georgian pianist Khatia Buniatishvili is a prime example of the wide-ranging benefits of a relationship with the Trust. ‘When you’re at the beginning of a career, you need some support; sometimes you don’t even have time to think about what is actually needed to [develop] yourself,’ says the 2010 award winner. For Buniatishvili, some of this support came in the form of wise words of advice from Dame Mitsuko Uchida, a BBT trustee. ‘She told me it is important not to play too much, to know how many concerts you are playing and for what reason. She’s afraid that we young people are doing too much and we don’t have time to think, actually, what we want to develop in our professional life.’ Similar encouragement throughout her time with BBT, says Buniatishvili, was ‘really very human, and very warm’.
Another source of interaction for BBT award winners is the opportunity to play chamber music together. As a soloist, Buniatishvili has referred affectionately to the piano as a ‘symbol of musical solitude’, and so it seems fitting that she follows the Beethoven string trio with two solo pieces by Chopin. She chose Ballade No.4 because she knew Uchida had heard, and liked, her performance of it, while Uchida herself suggested the Scherzo No.3.
But while for her the piano’s soul is solitary, Buniatishvili also enjoys the ‘festive, joyful character’ of playing chamber music. She has not performed previously with her collaborators this evening, but is ‘really excited’ to have had three days of rehearsals in Italy ahead of the concert, arranged by BBT. ‘Usually we wouldn’t have this kind of luxury, to have this much time to rehearse,’ she observes. ‘It’s nice to have time to rehearse and relax at the same time.’
The work the quartet has been rehearsing is of course Brahms’ first piano quartet, and Buniatishvili is particularly looking forward to the boisterous, triumphant “Hungarian-style” finale. ‘Everything related with the Hungarian style is a huge pleasure to play,’ she says with reference to her recent recording of Liszt’s piano music. ‘For me, this style, the Hungarian blood, it just works.’ Recounting an earlier performance of the Brahms, she remembers that in the finale she ‘just had no limits any more, and this energetic challenge that we had between musicians towards the end of the piece was something that makes life more exciting.’