The works in this program were composed after Liszt abandoned the life of a touring virtuoso and settled in Weimar. There, in Goethe’s city, he composed his Faust Symphony, and a Faustian program has sometimes been attributed to his Piano Sonata.
The 23-year-old Georgian pianist Khatia Buniatishvili would agree. In her liner notes she finds parallels with Faust throughout the program. Yet while her writings suggest that all you need to master this music is a metaphysical context, she neglects to mention the physical side (probably through modesty).
Buniatishvili’s technical prowess enables her to combine energy with precision at a level comparable to Argerich – indeed this is the most exciting debut performance of the Liszt Sonata since Argerich recorded it in 1960. Her intellectual rigour also allows her to plot the mercurial changes of pace, weight and speed that are built into its structure. Her allegros are imbued with Faustian recklessness. Her Liebestraum radiates a purity associated with Marguerite, while her Mephisto Waltz has power but also a light touch that can only be labelled Mephistophelian.
She has two attributes necessary for a Lisztian: she never bangs the piano in double fortes, and she makes everything sound if not easy then at least inevitable. In short, a triumph.