23-year-old Georgian pianist and current BBC Radio 3 New Generation artist performed a demanding solo recital to a packed Wigmore Hall. She opened with a thoughtful account of the Fantasy by Schumann (who celebrates his 200th birthday this year). This was by far the most engaging performance in the recital, often contemplative and with a very individual response to the music.

Julia Wesely
Julia Wesely

In a year where Schumann’s music has been widely celebrated, audiences will have had chance to better understand the turbulent, schizophrenic nature of his music. Buniatishvili successfully presented the contrasting ‘Florestan’ and ‘Eusebius’ characters, both extrovert and introvert respectively, with full conviction. The careful, lingering opening was followed by an eruption of buoyant energy that sustained through the lively second movement, with Schumann’s obsessive dotted rhythms played with an almost whimsical feel.

The final ‘Langsam’ movement had a grave solemnity that was almost heartbreaking. In an audience which also included a large crowd of young schoolchildren, this music cast a spell that left the hall silent enough to hear a pin drop.

Liszt’s Mephisto Waltz was performed at breakneck speed – in this dance our feet barely touched the ground! The climaxes erupted without warning, and the motoric opening had a highly percussive sound in keeping with the demonic pictures painted by this music.

Buniatishvili brought a rustic quality to the three pieces from Stravinsky’s Petrushka, where she was really able to showcase the full extent of her technical ability. Her playing suggested various orchestral timbres through balancing multidimensional textures on the instrument. The culmination was particularly exciting, featuring hand crossing and multiple glissandos (which proved taxing for even the likes of Rubinstein, who originally commissioned the transcription).

There was a bristling energy in this highly charged programme, performed with flair and daring originality. The recital concluded with an encore by Liszt, the famous Liebestraume, whose warm rippling arpeggios were reminiscent of the Schumann that was played so beautifully at the beginning.

Throughout the recital, Buniatishvili did not hesitate to stamp her individuality on each of the works in her programme. Like her mentor, Martha Argerich (with whom she shared another concert at Wigmore last month) this is a pianist who divides critics and audiences alike, but never fails to elicit a strong reaction whenever she plays.