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Youtube’s favourite pianist challenges record review magazines

In our conversation for, I asked Valentina Lisitsa what she made of the spread of reviews she received – some hugely appreciative, others altogether dismissive. She took a deep breath and described her reaction to negative responses when she first posted her work on Youtube. These hostile opinions were often followed by contradicting views and a debate would ensue.

‘That’s what I like,’ she says. ‘These record magazines publish a review but allow no comments. That’s a problem for me. These people feel as if they are gradually being bypassed.’

You can hear two cuts of the interview – a 9-minute edit on video

and a 30-minute audio account, click here.

I also invited her to play a piece of her choice – a scintillating Liszt transcription of a Schubert song.


It was announced today that Valentina Lisitsa will open the Bournemouth Syphony Orchestra season with Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No.3 on October 2nd.

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  1. Martin Bookspan says:

    I may have written about this earlier. If so, please forgive the repeat!

    Some 20 or so years ago a husband and wife team from Russia came to Miami to compete in the Dranoff International Two-Piano Competition. Their names were Valentina and Alexei and it did not take long for them to be referred to as Val and Al. Val played Piano I and Alexei Piano II. I happened to be a member of the jury that year. As soon as they started to play in Round 1 of the Competition, I wrote in my Blue Book: “What a prima!” It goes without saying that at the end of the Competition we judges awarded the First Prize to the team of Val and Al.

    They remained in Miami for a time afterwards and came to the attention of Julian Kreeger, a local attorney but also one of the Herculean record collectors and mveenim on this planet, with a particular specialty in pianists and pianism. Julian also runs an audio record label named Audiofon, and he immediately rushed Val and Al into the studio and made some recordings with them, along with some solo piano recordings with Val(entina). He also made a Concerto recording with Val, the Shostakovich First, with Sarah Caldwell conducting a Russian Orchestra. If you can find any of those Audiofon recordings by Val, grab them. They’re terrific!

  2. We got loadsa instrumentalists, wannabee conductors etc, but where are our Mahlers, Mozarts and Tchaikovskys????

    What went wrong?

    • Do you mean there aren’t any exciting young composers coming through? I could give you a list off the top of my head: Luke Bedford, Tansy Davies, Emily Howard, Helen Grime, Sean Shepherd, Charlotte Bray, Ben Foskett, Mark Simpson, Nico Muhly, Francisco Coll, Martin Suckling, Stuart Macrae, Emily Hall, Joe Duddell, Ryan Wigglesworth, Huw Watkins, Joe Cutler, Helena Gough…and those are mostly just from the UK alone! Pick just one of those and try them, and you’ll be amazed.

    • The answer is that nobody’s giving us a chance – the good instrumentalists and conductors are mostly sticking to tried and tested pieces. As are the audiences.

      Valentina Lisitsa is, according to her website, “at ease in a vast repertoire ranging from Bach and Mozart to Shostakovich and Bernstein” – i.e. anyone as long as they’ve been dead for a while. This is not an uncommon attitude.

      Sometimes musicians don’t have the technical skill or ear to handle new work – I know a couple of conductors who will only work with tonal material because they can’t hear pitch mistakes in a non-tonal score. Mind you, that probably says more about the music they were trying to conduct than about the conductor! And it omits an immense number of new composers who work mostly with tonality, myself included – if you’re interested, especially in choral work.

      • She toured with Hilary Hahn, playing the new “Hahn encores ” many times.
        She has also played Schnitke.

  3. Exactly

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