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Valentina Lisitsa Gets Standing O in Calgary

In April I posted about the concert pianist Valentina Lisitsa, whose appearances with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra were canceled because of pressure from Ukrainian activists who didn’t like her criticism of the current Kiev regime. Ms. Lisitsa was born in Kiev. She is known for advancing her piano career via YouTube rather than the traditional soloist management deal.

Well, the schnooks at the Toronto Symphony may have missed out on a great performance, but Canada is not all lost. With the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra in Alberta, Ms. Lisitsa has just given “riveting” performances (according to the Calgary Herald) of the same piano concerto — the Rachmaninoff 2nd — that she was scheduled to perform in Toronto. The Herald notes,

As a performing persona, Lisitsa is striking. Tall, willowy, and with flowing blond hair, she projects the very image of the long-haired artist of the romantic era. As a pianist, she plays with evident command over the instrument, her tone powerful, full, and rich. Her technique manages the considerable challenges of Rachmaninoff’s writing with the athleticism of the perfectly coordinated tennis player who never misses a forehand.

Interpretively, her playing was highly individual, the tempos both very fast and, sometimes, very slow. In general, one was riveted by her as a performing artist, the work a vehicle for her presence as a virtuoso, with the ultimate effect resembling a concert at the Hollywood Bowl.  This was large-boned playing, and there was nothing lacking in the on-the-sleeve emotionality of the big melodic moments in the framing movements. Other performances might lower the temperature slightly to permit the voice of the composer to emerge in a stronger way, but the authority of Lisitsa’s playing was compelling to watch and hear.

(Conductor Roberto) Minczuk and the orchestra, while occasionally a trifle loud, were nonetheless a fine support for Lisitsa, following her changeable tempos without missing a beat and offering sensitive flute and clarinet solos in the slow movement. The audience loved it, and responded with an instant standing ovation.

Now, this video below isn’t the Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 2 that wowed the concert-goers in Calgary, but it is Rachmaninoff, and this is Valentina Lisitsa, performing the first movement of Rachmaninoff’s Piano Sonata No. 1, op. 28.

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