Rubinstein Piano Competition / The Georgian Is Still Intoxicating

Monday's recital by 20-year-old Khatia Buniatishvili will be remembered as the competition's climax.

On Monday afternoon, right after the Chinese pianist Junjie Chen finished playing the Liszt sonata, I realized it was supposed to be played again a few hours later, by the Georgian pianist Khatia Buniatishvili. It didn't seem very comforting, because his interpretation of the Liszt saga was tortuous to an exhausting degree.

Later in the evening, as soon as Buniatishvili touched the keys, the feeling of impatience with the imminent Liszt sonata faded, even before she actually played it.

The 20-year-old Georgian artiste opened with a mandatory Israeli piece, Tmurot 2 (Changes 2) by Menachem Wiesenberg, in an overture to a recital that will be remembered as one of the feats of the competition, if not its climax.

She soon continued with Chopin's Ballad No. 4, an enchanting piece that was performed with the utmost sensitivity, and later eased the tension with pieces by Debussy and Prokofiev.

Then came the Liszt sonata, that under Khatia's fingers did not sound painstaking at all, but rather nuanced and beautifully fragmented. Buniatishvili managed to constantly produce a soft and caressing sound.

Among the players Monday were the aforementioned Chinese Chen and the American Wei Jen Yuan, who were unremarkable. Israel's Dror Biran unveiled new aspects of Avia Kopelman's Hakol Tzafui veHareshut Netuna (Everything is Foreseen but Free Will is Given). His interpretation of a Schubert sonata (D 784) was far from extraordinary, but he did better with Prokofiev's Sonata No. 8.

Dmitri Levkovich (a Ukrainian-Canadian with a brief Israeli past) and the Korean Jae Won Cheung were okay, but that's no big compliment.