Every so often an artist comes along who completely throws out the rule book and is brave enough to approach a musical career on their own terms. Yesterday I witnessed one such artist: Valentina Lisitsa. I have already blogged about Valentina, marvelling at the way she has managed her career on her own by successfully employing social media. This has allowed her to speak directly to her fans via her own YouTube channel – on which she has famously had more than 44 million hits. Up until now Valentina has been a YouTube sensation – she hasn’t really been given the opportunity to prove if she really can produce the goods under the scrutiny of a sophisticated London audience.

All that changed this week at the Royal Albert Hall. Lisitsa performed for over two hours to all her fans worldwide because the concert was streamed live on YouTube and it was also recorded as a DVD and CD too. Both will be released very soon.

The programme consisted of Lisitsa favourites; Liszt, Chopin, Rachmaninov and Scriabin as well as Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert. An eclectic mix which her many fans helped her to select.

From the start, I was aware that this was to be no ordinary recital; Valentina strolled onto the stage with a microphone in hand and proceeded to chat to her audience for a good ten minutes, speaking of her meteoric rise and the journey she has been on to get to this point. She thanked her fans for their support. On sitting down to play the gleaming Bȍsendorfer which had been carefully angled for maximum audience viewing, huge rolling cameras began to move surreptitiously around the stage. There were also two giant screens erected high above Lisitsa. I enjoyed the coloured lighting onstage which changed throughout the concert depending on the mood of the piece – pure theatre!

The first work was to be considered the ‘Overture’ she told us. This was Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No 12 which she romped through with total confidence and aplomb, tossing aside the fiendishly difficult passagework allowing beautifully phrased melodic material to captivate and caress the audience. Mozart’s Fantasy in C minor K.475 was a revelation; Valentina’s tonal palate was immense yet even in the huge RAH, every last note was audible.

Three Schubert-Liszt songs followed and were possibly the highlight of the recital. Des Mädchens Klage and Der Doppelgänger serve as perfect illustrations as to why Lisitsa has achieved worldwide respect; they were performed with utter conviction and real lyricism. Erlkȍnig was played with such beauty and tonal colour. I felt complete fear and anguish at the little boy’s plight in this song such was the depth of Valentina’s communication. It was an incredibly moving performance of this virtuoso arrangement.

Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata in C sharp minor (Op.27, No. 2) closed the first half. Listsa’s gave this work an almost improvisatory character which was particularly successful in the outer movements. Many layers of sound pervaded the famous first movement, the second was given a dance-like feel and the majestic third movement was played with such clarity and taken at breathtaking speed.

Rachmaninov opened the second half; Etude-Tableau Op.39, No 6, which was stylishly delivered combining mystery and excitement. The group of Preludes which followed showed Lisitsa at her most flexible and lucid. The lyrical G major (Op.32, No.5) was played with complete abandon; so secure is Valentina’s technique that she can focus on conveying every last musical nuance. The G sharp minor (Op 32, No.12) was given the utmost tonal variety (although some of the lush harmonic progressions could have been savoured a little more for my taste) and the B minor (Op 32, No. 10) was also effective. The G minor (Op. 23, No. 5) – a trade mark on her YouTube channel – was taken at break neck speed but the middle section was rhythmically free and the melodic material so convincingly phrased and coloured.

Scriabin’s Two Poemes (Op. 32) were full of intensity and passion as were his Two Etudes (Op. 42 No. 3 and Op. 65 No.1). I particularly the enjoyed Op. 42 No.3, nicknamed ‘Mosquito’, and in Lisitsa’s hands, it certainly sounded like one!

Three Chopin Nocturnes were yet another highlight of the evening. The C minor Op 48, No. 1, was allowed to unfold naturally, the climax of cascading octaves rippling down the piano came as a welcome relief to the concentrated anguish of the first and indeed the last section. Nocturnes in D flat major (Op 27 No.2) and in E flat major (Op 9 No. 2) were moving to the last breath such was the depth and clarity in Lisitsa’s melodic lines.

The programme ended with Liszt’s devastatingly powerful work, Totentanz S.525. This wonderful death-dance using the Gregorian plainchant, Dies Irae, was given majesty and grandeur bringing the whole Lisitsa experience to a fittingly virtuosic close. Valentina was then treated to a complete standing ovation which lasted several minutes. Schubert’s Ave-Maria was encore number one and the moving melody was swiftly distributed between the hands so effortlessly. Encore number two was Liszt’s La Campanella, another Lisitsa trade mark. After a false start (thanks to the audience’s vociferous comments) Valentina again demonstrated complete musical and technical prowess. Throughout this recital she has shown total individuality and commitment which is the quality I most admire in her playing.

Lisitsa has silenced her critics. Perhaps more importantly, she has illustrated that it is possible to come from no-where and rise to heady levels of success without winning first prize in an international competition or the need for agents, publicists and all those who often seek to destroy artist’s rather than help establish them. I hope this is the start of a long and illustrious career – she certainly deserves it.


11 thoughts on “19/06/2012 | Valentina Lisitsa – Royal Albert Hall, London”

  1. nice review; thank you. i watched the concert live on youtube, from chicago, and thoroughly enjoyed her power, technique and passion. she is exactly the kind of talent classical music needs, capable of attracting a whole new audience and reaching them thru new media.

    1. Thank you – glad you liked my review. I agree – classical music really does need a different approach and via social media this is becoming more and more possible.

  2. Without having the pleasure to meet her in person, I can certainly say that the beauty of her playing comes directly from, not only her heart and passion for music, but the kindness and humble. She is an extraordinary player but, first, and incredible person: that is the thing that brought her here where she begins what I know it’s gonna be and outstanding career. Congratulations to her.

  3. I was glad to read a review so quickily by someone who attended Valentina LIsitsa’s concert. I’ve been lucky to know and hear her many times over the years, but wished I could be there for the big event. I am so glad the real Valentina was on hand, and not the typical musician who must act like all the others as is so common seen in recital. What’s fascinating in this day and age is to see what everyone says about the same event. Yet, how wonderful it is as well – in many ways, I think it makes music more alive to hear people react and cover it.

  4. This is the justice that Valentina deserves – a big THANK YOU from seven of us, four of whom flew down from Scotland to be part of this piece of history in the world of classical music.

  5. Talent finally gets chance to be heard without selective prices and juries, she speaks directly to her audience with her enormous professionalism and open communication. A revelation on two fronts. And also she delivers truly amazing beautiful music! Now the public can appreciate and evaluate themselves.

  6. She showed convincingly she is one of the very few people worthy of playing a Bösendorfer Imperial.
    Thank you, Valentina.

  7. Thank you Melanie. This is the review which I would like to share. We don’t need to say YouTube phenomenon, the most essential part of her story lies in her own music power. I cannot forget the moment when I was first watching her performance of Totentanz on the net. And every time I listen to her perfomance, it reminds me of that moment. She definitely broaden my horizons of musical preference. It is such a power she has. But she is far beyond than I expected.

    After the 19th concert, I found that she sent us (mailing list members of her won site) program notes which she herself devoted to write.


    I know from someone else’s brog that she delivered the similar notes in the concert.But this is the first time for me to read whole her comments to explore her performance in her true intention. This is a really guide to her perormance and very much unique way to commit to the intention.

    And I’m totally convinced with the comments to enjoy her music.
    All these things are no ordinary.

    I cannot break the spell of the 19th concert. My heart is still trembling with deep and mixed feeling which she brought to the stage.

    Thank you. Valentina.

  8. Wir flogen von Deutschland für dieses Konzert nach London.
    Bei jedem einzelnen Stück kann man sagen: noch nie so gut gehört.
    Mozart so wunderbar wie Liszt, Beethoven so perfekt wie Rachmaninoff.
    Fliege um den ganzen Globus: die Nocturnes von Chopin wirst du nie mehr besser hören.

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