The Absurd Times Valentina Lisitsa

Posted in Uncategorized by @honestcharlie on April 11, 2015


You have to hear this.


Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto #3, called "Rach 3", is at the pinnacle of classical music concertos. Any pianist who can master it, if any ever really masters it, has achieved one of the greatest feats possible. Daniel Barenboim never tried to record it as best I know, nor Vladimir Ashkenazy, and many others. Many have tried it and failed, falling short either in places or all over in time and tempo.

The first able to play it well was the composer himself, Serge, and the recordings are available on CD. He is to this concerto as Arthur Schnabel is to the Beethoven Sonatas. Serge was well-known and acclaimed as a concert pianist even before this concerto and it made him the only living master of it.

One day, Vladimir Horowitz played it while Serge was in the audience. Many analogies occur to me, but I’ll pass them by. Horowitz was apprehensive to say the least until Serge shook his hand and said "It is now yours."

After that, a few came along. Van Cliburn having won the Tchaikosky competition in Moscow during the cold war, was jingoistically promoted and sold a lot of records and, to his credit, helped many younger pianists. Still, he was no giant, to say the least (although he was very tall).

I remember much later some pianist in Australia suffered from a form of schizophrenia and lost what could have been a great career. Well, he recovered somewhat and recorded the Rach III. I had no idea about the movie or Grammys and Oscars — just not my interest), but I suspect his recording was a best seller for some time. I heard it and laughed a bit, thinking it was a parody. No harm intended, I assure you.

Most recently, a pianist named Lang Lang recorded the Rach III. Even though he hit every note, exactly at the right time, and more quickly than anyone had a right to expect, somehow it seemed to miss the emotional impact the work once had for me. I kept remembered a recording by Richter that was much better for me.

Well, now there is a new artist. She is one of the best new artists to appear since Glenn Gould.

Valentina Lisitsa plays the Rach III dynamically, driven, filled with passion and intent. There seems to be nothing missing. I played it several times and then went back and compared the Horowitz (yes, with Ormandy) and Rach himself (I don’t remember the orchestra), and she is right there with them, at least for me.

Not many realize this, but she also has a great brain or mind. She started out wanting to be a professional chess player and is very outspoken about Ukraine. If she had only one composer to play, ever, it would be Beethoven. Many of her performances are available on You Tube and have attracted millions. All of this came as a bit of a surprise to me as I only knew her for her incisive remarks on Twitter, and only became aware of her as a pianist when the (pardon the expression) Toronto Symphony Orchestra cancelled one of her performances because of bitching by Kiev supporters. (I told you she could think).

She was born and grew up in Ukraine, but now lives in the U.S. Check her out on You Tube. She also has recordings on DGG, Decca, and a few other labels.


Posted By Blogger to The Absurd Times at 4/11/2015 01:17:00 PM


3 Responses

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  1. Barry Wright said, on April 11, 2015 at 1:38 pm

    Gorgeous girl, great talent. Just to be slightly academic, the Russian way to refer to someone is using their patronymic, thus ‘Sergei Vasilievich’ ( Rachmaninoff) or ‘SVR’.

    Sergei Vasilievich was superb as a performer and as a composer. Funny how he has not made it to the top ranks of critics, who vastly prefer neurotics like Mahler. SVR is

    very hetero too, which throws off a lot of music critics.

    I have a 6’10” largish Kawai grand which sounds magnificent, if someone is around to play it. I knew a Russian pianist not as gorgeous as Valentina but could she play SVR!

    Her doctoral thesis in music compared the ‘Rach 2’ and ‘Rach 3’ in great detail. I can play a little of the 3rd concerto slow movement, it thrills me every single time…

    I’d like to throw a Rachmaninoff party if I could find someone to play.

    For my 60th birthday some 12 years ago ( yikes, are we still alive?) I hired a couple of opera soloists and an accompanist from Opera San Jose, they really tore the roof off my house, wow. I felt like I was in one of those old Maxell ads, remember? Except with live singers and piano.

    That reminds me, I had a pair of those JBL speakers too, the L100 ‘Centuries’, great sounding. Doug criticized them once for having too much ‘inter modular distortion’ so I gave them away, ‘D’oh!’


    • @honestcharlie said, on April 11, 2015 at 4:21 pm

      Oh yeah! By all means throw out the speakers if Doung said there was inter-modular distortion. I don’t blame you. What were you thinking of when you bought them? Sheesh! Yeow!

      Lots of her stuff on You Tube — I think she’s the first classical superstar who go going on social media. That 14th has over a millions views.


  2. @honestcharlie said, on April 16, 2015 at 1:10 pm

    Reblogged this on NeoBohemia.


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