Valentina Lisitsa: Live At The Royal Albert Hall

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Rachmaninov; Beethoven; Liszt; Scriabin and Chopin
ALBUM TITLE: Valentina Lisitsa: Live At The Royal Albert Hall
WORKS: Rachmaninov: Preludes; Beethoven: Für Elise; ‘Moonlight’ Sonata; etc
PERFORMER: Valentina Lisitsa (piano)


The Ukrainian-born Valentina Lisitsa has the extraordinary distinction of being the first pianist ever to rise to prominence through her popularity on YouTube (see p22). After her videos clocked up millions of hits, she gave a recital at the Royal Albert Hall, London, in June this year – with the programme chosen by online vote. Decca recorded the occasion and has brought out the recording pronto.

The CD is best enjoyed as the chronicle of that particular event – one featuring enough lollipops (Für Elise included) to open a confectionery franchise. A pick’n’mix of Beethoven, Liszt, Chopin, Rachmaninov and Scriabin parade across the keyboard; the most substantial work in her recital is Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata.

Lisitsa emerges as a hugely confident and spontaneous performer. There’s grace in her turns of phrase and relish in her sense of rhetoric; inner voices are often allowed to shine, and there can be lightness in her touch – the Rachmaninov G minor Prelude has a delicious bounce to it and Liszt’s Un sospiro sweeps and glints to the manner born. Sometimes, though, a downside appears when loud passages threaten to career a tad out of control and miss their point. At the climax of the Rachmaninov B minor Prelude, Op. 32 No. 10, the pulsing chords overwhelm the melodic line and the shape threatens to vanish in a noisefest.

One could wish for more subtlety and deeper characterisation in Lisitsa’s playing, but this recital – in the Royal Albert Hall’s less than ideal acoustics – probably wasn’t the time or place for that. 


Jessica Duchen