Valentina Lisitsa

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Valentina Lisitsa
Valentina Lisitsa beside a piano
Background information
Born (1973-03-25) 25 March 1973 (age 46)
Kiev, Ukrainian SSR, Soviet Union
Occupation(s)Classical pianist
Years active1977-present

Valentina Lisitsa (Ukrainian: Валенти́на Євге́нівна Лиси́ця, romanizedValentýna Jevhénivna Lysýcja, IPA: [wɐlenˈtɪnɐ jeu̯ˈɦɛn⁽ʲ⁾iu̯nɐ lɪˈsɪtsʲɐ]; Russian: Валентина Евгеньевна Лисица, romanizedValentina Evgen'evna Lisica, IPA: [vɐlʲɪnˈtʲinə jɪvˈɡʲenʲɪvnə lʲɪˈsʲitsə]; born 25 March 1973) is a Ukrainian-American[1] pianist. She previously resided in North Carolina before moving to Canada, and then to France.[2][3]

Lisitsa is among the most frequently viewed pianists on YouTube – particularly her renderings of Romantic Era virtuoso piano composers, including Franz Liszt, Frédéric Chopin and Sergei Rachmaninoff.[4][5] Lisitsa independently launched her career on social media, without initially signing with a tour promoter or record company.[4][5]

Life and career[edit]

Lisitsa was born in Kiev, Ukraine, in 1973. Her mother, also called Valentina, is a seamstress. Father, Evgeny, was an engineer.[4] Her older brother Eugene passed away in 2009 [6] [7]

She started playing the piano at the age of three, performing her first solo recital at the age of four.[8] She is of Russian and Polish descent.[9]

Despite her early disposition to music, her dream at that point was to become a professional chess player.[10] Lisitsa attended the Lysenko music school and, later, Kiev Conservatory,[11] where she and her future husband, Alexei Kuznetsoff, studied under Dr. Ludmilla Tsvierko.[12] It was when Lisitsa met Kuznetsoff that she began to take music more seriously.[13] In 1991, they won the first prize in The Murray Dranoff Two Piano Competition in Miami, Florida.[11][14] That same year, they moved to the United States to further their careers as concert pianists.[4] In 1992 the couple married.[4] Their New York debut was at the Mostly Mozart Festival at Lincoln Center in 1995.[12]

Lisitsa posted her first YouTube video in 2007. Her set of Chopin etudes reached the number-one slot on Amazon's classical video recordings, and became the most-viewed online set of Chopin etudes on YouTube.[15][16]

Furthering her career, Lisitsa and her husband put their life savings in recording a CD of Rachmaninoff concertos with the London Symphony Orchestra in 2010.[4] In the spring of 2012, before her Royal Albert Hall debut, Lisitsa was signed on to Decca Records, who later released her Rachmaninoff CD set.[4] By mid-2012 she had nearly 50 million views on her YouTube videos.[5]

Lisitsa has performed in various venues around the world, including Carnegie Hall, David Geffen Hall, Benaroya Hall, Musikverein and Royal Albert Hall. She is well known for her online recitals and practicing streams. She has also collaborated with violinist Hilary Hahn for various recital engagements.[11]


Lisitsa has received criticism for her opposition to the Ukrainian government and support of pro-Russian separatists since the 2014 pro-Russian unrest in Ukraine and the ensuing armed conflict.[17] In April 2015 the Toronto Symphony Orchestra cancelled concerts with Lisitsa, citing[18] her "provocative" online remarks on her Twitter account; the orchestra initially did not specify which tweets or other commentary it believed crossed a line.[19] Later, on 8 April 2015, the CEO of Toronto Symphony, Jeff Melanson provided a PDF document of seven pages listing the most "offensive" tweets. Melanson alleged that the document would "help people understand why we made this decision, and understand as well how this is not a free speech issue, but rather an issue of someone practicing very intolerant and offensive expression through Twitter."[20]

In response, the Toronto Star newspaper criticized the orchestra's decision in an editorial, noting that, "Lisitsa was not invited to Toronto to discuss her provocative political views. She was scheduled to play the piano. And second, banning a musician for expressing "opinions that some believe to be offensive" shows an utter failure to grasp the concept of free speech."[21] Lisitsa said that the orchestra threatened her if she spoke about the cancellation.[22]

According to Paul Grod, then president of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress: "Ms. Lisitsa has been engaged in a long campaign on social media belittling, insulting and disparaging the people of Ukraine as they face direct military aggression at the hands of the Russian Federation". Grod elaborated that "Most disturbing are Ms. Lisitsa's false allegations that the government of Ukraine is "Nazi", and stating that the Government of Ukraine is setting up 'filtration camps.'" The New Jersey-based Ukrainian Weekly has described her postings as "anti-Ukraine hate speech."[9][18] In response she commented that "satire and hyperbole [are] the best literary tools to combat the lies".[9][18]


Lisitsa has recorded six CDs for Audiofon Records, including three solo CDs and two discs of duets with her husband Alexei Kuznetsoff; a Gold CD for CiscoMusic label with cellist DeRosa; a duet recital on VAI label with violinist Ida Haendel; and DVDs of Frédéric Chopin's 24 Études and Schubert-Liszt Schwanengesang.[23]

Her recording of the four sonatas for violin and piano by composer Charles Ives, made with Hilary Hahn, was released in October 2011 on Deutsche Grammophon label. Her album Valentina Lisitsa Live at the Royal Albert Hall (based on her debut performance at that venue 19 June 2012) was released 2 July 2012.

Lisitsa has reproduced several compositions by various artists, including Sergei Rachmaninoff, Franz Liszt, Frédéric Chopin and Ludwig van Beethoven. Her complete album of Rachmaninoff concertos was released in October 2012 by Decca Records.[24] An album of Liszt works was released in October 2013 on Decca label in 2 formats – CD and 12" LP which was cut unedited from analog tape. An even more recent album comprises a number of works of the composer and pianist Philip Glass.[25] As of July 2019, her latest release on Decca records is a 10CD set titled Tchaikovsky: The Complete Solo Piano Works.


  1. ^ Everett-Green, Robert (7 December 2012). "Valentina Lisitsa: Playing the odds – by way of Rachmaninoff". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 8 April 2015.
  2. ^ "Valentina Lisitsa and Alexei Kuznetsoff". Southern Arts Federation. Retrieved 12 July 2009.
  3. ^ "The North Carolina Symphony Ends the Summerfest Season with Spectacular Russian Masterpieces". North Carolina Symphony. Archived from the original on 31 December 2010. Retrieved 12 July 2009. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Pianist Valentina Lisitsa:interview with the YouTube star, The Daily Telegraph (19 August 2012)
  5. ^ a b c Pianist Valentina Lisitsa on her debut at the Royal Albert Hall, BBC News (19 June 2012)
  6. ^ Ferenc, Leslie (10 April 2015). "For Valentina Lisitsa, not a note of regret after TSO snub". The Star. Retrieved 7 June 2019.
  7. ^ Wilson, Sophie (19 August 2012). "Pianist Valentina Lisitsa: interview with the YouTube star". The Telegraph. Retrieved 7 June 2019.
  8. ^ "Calendar of Events and Exhibitions". National Museum of Women in the Arts. Retrieved 12 July 2009.
  9. ^ a b c Ukrainian-Born Pianist Replaced Over Pro-Rebel Comments , Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (7 April 2015)
  10. ^ "Valentina Lisitsa".
  11. ^ a b c "Valentina Lisitsa, piano". Fresno Philharmonic. Retrieved 12 July 2009.
  12. ^ a b "N.C. Arts Council – Organizations Page". North Carolina Arts Council. Archived from the original on 27 September 2011. Retrieved 16 July 2009. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  13. ^ "Valentina Lisitsa performs with the Oregon Symphony". Oregon Symphony. Retrieved 12 July 2009.
  14. ^ "The Dranoff International Two Piano Foundation – 1991 Winner Biographies". The Dranoff International Two Piano Foundation. Archived from the original on 5 December 2008. Retrieved 16 July 2009. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  15. ^ "Pianist Valentina Lisitsa: interview with the YouTube star". the Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 19 August 2012.
  16. ^ Staff, NPR. "Valentina Lisitsa: Chasing Pianos And YouTube Fans".
  17. ^ Walker, Shaun (10 April 2015). "Ukraine-born pianist's Toronto concert cancelled over pro-Russia remarks" – via The Guardian.
  18. ^ a b c "Controversial Ukrainian-born pianist dropped from TSO concerts".
  19. ^ Orchestra Drops Pianist Valentina Lisitsa Over 'Deeply Offensive' Tweets, WQXR-FM (6 April 2015)
  20. ^ "Toronto Symphony CEO Jeff Melanson breaks his silence". Musical Toronto. 8 April 2015.
  21. ^ "TSO should not have dropped pianist Valentina Lisitsa: Editorial" – via The Star.
  22. ^ Vincent, Michael (6 April 2015). "BREAKING – TSO Dumps Upcoming Soloist Valentina Lisitsa Over Political Views".
  23. ^ "About Valentina Lisitsa". Retrieved 15 July 2012.
  24. ^ "News – Valentina Lisitsa".
  25. ^ "Valentina Lisitsa plays Philip Glass – 2 CDs / Download – Deutsche Grammophon Gesellschaft".

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