Valentina Lisitsa

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Valentina Lisitsa
Valentina Lisitsa beside a piano
Background information
Born (1973-12-11) 11 December 1973 (age 42)
Kiev, Ukrainian SSR, Soviet Union
Genres Classical
Occupation(s) Classical pianist
Instruments Piano

Valentina Lisitsa (Ukrainian: Валентина Лисиця, translit. Valentyna Lysytsya; born 11 December 1973)[1] is a Ukrainian-American[2] classical pianist who resides in North Carolina.[3][4] Lisitsa is among the most frequently viewed pianists on YouTube.[5][6] Lisitsa independently launched the beginnings of her career via social media, without initially signing to a tour promoter or record company.[5][6]

Life and career[edit]

Lisitsa was born in Kiev, Ukraine, in 1973. She started playing the piano at the age of three, performing her first solo recital at the age of four.[7] She is of Russian and Polish descent.[8][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 for Gifted Children 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.[5] In 1992 the couple married.[5] Their New York debut was at the Mostly Mozart Festival at Lincoln Center in 1995.[12]

After the death of her manager, and with the thought that she was "just another blonde Russian pianist,"[15] Lisitsa almost gave up on her career as a concert pianist, and contemplated working as a translator for the CIA,[16] but changed her mind at the last minute, influenced by one of her new fans in England.[citation needed] Lisitsa posted her first YouTube video in 2007, gaining even more online attention after uploading her own set of Chopin etudes online for free (in response to an illegal upload of the same set beforehand). 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.[5]

Furthering her career, Lisitsa and her husband put their life savings in recording a CD of Rachmaninov concertos with the London Symphony Orchestra in 2010.[5] In the spring of 2012, before her Royal Albert Hall debut, Lisitsa was signed on to Decca Records, who later released her Rachmaninov CD set.[5] By mid-2012 she had nearly 50 million views on her YouTube videos.[6]

Lisitsa has performed in various venues around the world, including Carnegie Hall, Avery Fisher 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 to 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][20]

Lisitsa said that the orchestra threatened her if she spoke about the cancellation.[21] According to Paul Grod, 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."[8][18] In response she commented that "satire and hyperbole [are] the best literary tools to combat the lies".[8][18] 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."[22] On 22 June 2015, marking the 74th anniversary of the beginning of Operation Barbarossa, Lisitsa gave an open-air concert-requiem in Donetsk city in commemoration to the defenders, and in a speech she expressed support for the people living in Donbass region in their "anti-fascist war".

In late August 2015, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines decided to remove Lisitsa's recordings from the in-flight entertainment program,[23] because of her support for the pro-Russian separatists that are considered responsible for taking down flight MH17.


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 Etudes, Schubert-Liszt Schwanengesang.[24]

Her recording of the 4 sonatas for violin and piano by composer Charles Ives, made with 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 recently recorded several projects from the composers Rachmaninoff, Liszt, Chopin, and Beethoven. Her complete album of Rachmaninoff concertos was released in October 2012 by Decca Records.[25] 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.[26]


  1. ^
  2. ^ Everett-Green, Robert (7 December 2012). "Valentina Lisitsa: Playing the odds – by way of Rachmaninoff". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 8 April 2015. 
  3. ^ "Valentina Lisitsa and Alexei Kuznetsoff". Southern Arts Federation. Retrieved 2009-07-12. 
  4. ^ "The North Carolina Symphony Ends the Summerfest Season with Spectacular Russian Masterpieces". North Carolina Symphony. Retrieved 2009-07-12. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Pianist Valentina Lisitsa:interview with the YouTube star, (19 August 2012)
  6. ^ a b c Pianist Valentina Lisitsa on her debut at the Royal Albert Hall, BBC News (19 June 2012)
  7. ^ "Calendar of Events and Exhibitions". National Museum of Women in the Arts. Retrieved 2009-07-12. 
  8. ^ a b c Ukrainian-Born Pianist Replaced Over Pro-Rebel Comments , Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (7 April 2015)
  9. ^
  10. ^ "Valentina Lisitsa". 
  11. ^ a b c "Valentina Lisitsa, piano". Fresno Philharmonic. Retrieved 2009-07-12. 
  12. ^ a b "N.C. Arts Council - Organizations Page". North Carolina Arts Council. Retrieved 2009-07-16. 
  13. ^ "Valentina Lisitsa performs with the Oregon Symphony". Oregon Symphony. Retrieved 2009-07-12. 
  14. ^ "The Dranoff International Two Piano Foundation - 1991 Winner Biographies". The Dranoff International Two Piano Foundation. Retrieved 2009-07-16. 
  15. ^ "Pianist Valentina Lisitsa: interview with the YouTube star". (the) Telegraph ( Retrieved 2012-08-19. 
  16. ^
  17. ^ [1]
  18. ^ a b c
  19. ^
  20. ^ [2].Orchestra Drops Pianist Valentina Lisitsa Over 'Deeply Offensive' Tweets, WQXR-FM (6 April 2015)
  21. ^
  22. ^ "Toronto Symphony CEO Jeff Melanson breaks his silence". Musical Toronto. 8 April 2015. 
  23. ^
  24. ^ "About Valentina Lisitsa". Retrieved 2012-07-15. 
  25. ^!cds
  26. ^ "VALENTINA LISITSA plays PHILIP GLASS - 2 CDs / Download - Deutsche Grammophon Gesellschaft". 

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