- La valse, poème choréographique for piano or 2 pianos, M. 72
Once in a while comes a really wild release from one of the major labels, and here's the top candidate for 2016. Pianist Khatia Buniatishvili deploys her formidable technical talent in breakneck-speed readings of these 19th and 20th century classics, and moreover, in extremely unorthodox interpretations. They may be outrageous, but they're certainly not boring. Buyer reactions are going to be all over the map, so here's a rough stab at a balanced view. Perhaps the most extreme piece here is Mussorgsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition," where Buniatishvili discards the static series of tableaux plainly suggested by the title of the work and by nearly a century-and-a-half of performing tradition in favor of an impressionistic reading that is by turns dreamy and frenetic. Among the works on the program, this one may be hardest to swallow for the majority of listeners, but even if you're disconcerted, sample Ravel's "La Valse" (track 17). This is frenetic as well, but there's a long tradition of emphasizing that side of the work, and here Buniatishvili can be extremely compelling. The "Three Movements from Petroushka" are again unorthodox Stravinsky, epic rather than cool, but again both highly original and brilliantly executed. With superb recording from Berlin's Funkhaus studio capturing an artist who has worked in the pop realm and there learned something about seizing the attention of an audience, this is a major release from a striking young talent.