When I left the Royal Albert Hall after Valentina Lisitsa’s extraordinary debut recital, she was just getting geared up for the real night’s work.
There were four encores and some patching to be re-record where audience enthusiasm had smudged an ending. The record is supposed to be on e-release from Decca before the night’s out and Val was so high on adrenalin that it would have taken four burly London policemen to drag her away from a piano.
The hall was not full – about 60 percent by my reckoning, not bad for a night when England were playing Ukraine and the fate of nations hung in the balance. Those 60 percent were far from being the white heads that one sees in a regular piano recital. Many were in their 30s, some came as families and all, without exception, observed the decorum of a cathedral throughout the performance, never applauding between movements, only at the end of sets.
After a C minor Mozart fantasy that failed to ignite, youtube’s top-rated pianist filled the first half with Liszt transcriptions of three Schubert songs and Beethoven’s failsafe Moonlight Sonata.
The second half was bedrock Lisitsa – Rachmaninov, Scriabin and Chopin, ending with a Liszt Totentanz that would have rattled windows across Hyde Park. Two suspended screens left over from the Dalai Lama’s morning meeting gave a closeup of fingerings and a suggestion of how Val shaped a piece. Vast as the Albert Hall is, this was an intimate recital of unalloyed individuality. No other pianist plays like this and none has such easy rapport with her public.
She has introduced on youtube a different form of artist-public communication and is seems that she is succeeding bin carrying that over to the concert hall. Valentina Lisitsa is a mould-breaking artist. Before I have finished writing, she has already posted the unedited recital on youtube right here. Performance begins 20 minutes in: