Valentina Lisitsa

Valentina Lisitsa

Piano

• Born 1973

Editor's Choice

Having conquered the internet with over 45 million visitors to her YouTube channel, Valentina Lisitsa (Kiev-born and now based in North Carolina) booked and sold out the Royal Albert Hall for her much-touted British solo debut, and the Decca microphones were in attendance. The audience on that June evening in 2012 had requested – and were treated to – a programme of tried-and-trusted favourites, including Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata and Für Elise (both delivered with conspicuous understanding and newly-minted freshness), three Chopin Nocturnes (where her mastery of the singing line is in ample evidence), four Rachmaninov Preludes (the famous G minor driven with swashbuckling bravura) as well as Liszt's Liebestraum No 3 (unhackneyed and touching), Un sospiro and La campanella (swift and jaw-droppingly secure). One thing is for certain: Valentina Lisitsa's career has never looked back.

Biography

Pianist Valentina Lisitsa was among the first classical musicians to use an online video as a significant method of promoting her career. Her strategy was successful: in the 2010s decade she was signed to the major label Decca and has been a fixture in its stable of artists.

Lisitsa was born in Kiev, Ukraine, then part of the Soviet Union, on March 25, 1973. She took up the piano at three and was giving concerts within a year, but for a time she hoped to become a professional chess player. Lisitsa attended the Lysenko School of Music in Kiev and then enrolled at the Kiev Conservatory, studying with Ludmilla Tsvierko. There she met pianist Alexei Kuznetsoff, and the pair began performing as duo pianists. They won the Murray Dranoff Two Piano Competition in Miami in 1991 and moved to the U.S., settling in North Carolina. The pair married in 1992. They had some success in the U.S., appearing at the Mostly Mozart Festival in New York in 1995 and making recordings, both as a duo and by Lisitsa as a soloist, on the Audiofon label in the late 1990s. However, Lisitsa's career stalled, and she became interested in the possibilities of new media for promoting classical music. She posted a video on the internet in 2007 and found immediate success in that medium, topping charts in early metrics. Lisitsa hoped that internet stardom would propel her to success in conventional channels of touring and major-label recordings. Her videos did both: in the late 2000s decade she toured the U.S. and Europe as an accompanist to violinist Hilary Hahn. She issued a solo recital of works by Beethoven, Schumann, Liszt, and Sigismond Thalberg on Naxos in 2010, and accompanied Hahn on an Ives sonata recording for Deutsche Grammophon the following year.

In 2010, Lisitsa and Kuznetsoff executed the next step in their plan. They self-financed a recording of the four Rachmaninov piano concertos with the London Symphony Orchestra. This required the investment of their entire life savings, but it paid off. By 2012, with Lisitsa's online views mounting toward the 50 million mark, she was booked at London's Royal Albert Hall and signed to the Decca label. Decca issued her Rachmaninov recordings singly, and she has continued to record for Decca at least yearly. Most of her recordings have focused on Romantic and Russian repertory, but she also issued a recital of music by Philip Glass in 2015. Lisitsa has appeared at top venues including Carnegie Hall and the Royal Albert Hall, but she faced controversy in 2015 as her appearance with the Toronto Symphony was cancelled due to provocative tweets supporting the Russian-backed insurgency in Ukraine (Lisitsa herself is of Russian and Polish ethnic background). In 2019, Lisitsa recorded the complete piano music of Tchaikovsky for Decca.

In mid-2019, a video of her performance of the finale of Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 14 in C sharp minor, Op. 27, No. 2, amassed more than 40 million views.

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