Khatia Buniatishvili / Paavo Järvi / Orchestre de Paris CHOPIN

Georgian pianist Khatia Buniatishvili is a phenomenon, and kudos to Sony Classical for snagging her! This is Chopin of the old school, with massive interposition of the performer between music and listener. And it's glorious. The Piano Sonata No. 2 in B flat minor, Op. 35, is an absolutely original reading, with that black belt of classical pianism, a fresh rendition of the famous funeral march, with real involvement in the emotional content of the movement. This is a Chopin funeral march played after someone actually died, and the moment of chilly nihilism that serves as the finale is really a bit scary here. The big Ballade No. 4 in F minor, Op. 52, is hardly less stirring. Buniatishvili races forward at times, delays as if in torture at other times, and has the skills and the raw power to pull it all off. Are there problems? Sure. It's true that a 19th-century virtuoso recital would have freely mixed orchestral and solo music, but the live performance of the Piano Concerto No. 2 in F minor, Op. 21, doesn't quite fit here, partly because the acoustic of the Salle Pleyel in Paris is nothing like that of the Jesus-Christus-Kirche in Berlin, where the other pieces were recorded. And a few of Buniatishvili's dynamic contrasts go beyond anything Chopin could have accomplished with his own piano or even intended. But these are the flaws that serve only to point up the considerable accomplishments elsewhere. This is the kind of Chopin playing that people used to line up to hear. (

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