The most popular pianist on youtube

The most popular pianist on youtube


norman lebrecht

September 12, 2011

You thought it was Lang Lang, right?

Wrong. Lang Lang scores 1,537,277 views for an early video, Gone Mad, that has been up for about five years. Only two other Lang Lang videos top the million mark.

Another classical pianist repeatedly outscores Lang Lang on youtube.

Her name is Valentina Lisitsa.

Her top hit is Rachmaninov’s G-minor prelude with 1,605,052 views, followed by Etude opus 39/6 with 1,304,978 views, Beethoven’s Moonlight sonata 1,296,475, Chopin’s Etude opus 10/4 at 1,037,627, op 25/4 at 1,238,364  – and that’s without clicking on Für Elise at almost two million.

How does she do it. Val’s a Ukrainian pianist based in North Carolina who has just changed management from Cami to IMG. I first heard her accompanying Ida Haendel in a London recital and was impressed both by her sensitivity and her strength of character.

But how did she get to be #1 on youtube?

No-one knows. Or, if they do, they ain’t telling for fear Lang Lang will try to beat her with Chopsticks.

Well done, Val. We’ll keep watching.



  • Buddy Jack says:

    Maybe because she has her own youtube channel and promotes herself heavily is the reason she has more views than Lang Lang. I say good for her since you do what you need to do to get your name out there, but I don’t think Lang Lang has the same challenges as Valentina Lesitsa when it comes to exposure before the public.

  • I stumbled across a Youtbe clip of her “La Campanella” which totally blew me away. Power and virtuosity to spare and with that, a magnificent musical imagination. Unlike with so many other “stars”, I really wanted to hear her play more repertoire, which sent me to the other clips. Her solo Todtentanz is so magnificent. . I think her many hits has more to do with her real musical punch, rather than any “how did she do it” marketing hocus-pocus.

  • What about conductors? Who tops the list?
    I’m gonna guess ‘the dude’ but I might be wrong.

  • Petros Linardos says:

    Lisitsa is inevitable on youtube. Don’t know whether any technological wizardry or fees are involved, but she pops up with surprising regularity when I search for piano clips.

    There are many qualities to admire in her playing, although my favorite Rachmaninov op 23/5 is with Gilels, my favorite Moonlight with Perahia and my favorite Campanella with Egorov (arent we getting spoiled with youtube?). That she’s pretty easy on the eye can only help with views.

  • miguel mouta says:

    For sure she will not be affected by vanity, and loose respect and empathy toher audience, after such a goal. Communication and gentleness are her peculiarities.

  • Jorge Liebermann says:

    In many years of ardient music lover (words of Isaac Stern,in 1956,stamped in an envelope of a LP,as gift to me),only Valentina Lisitsa has been produce an effect electrical over me.In my video filmed in Lima (VII/VIII) listen my voice after the Chopin Nocturne Nº13,Op.48 Nº1.All the soul of Frederic Chopin is in the playing of Val.”MON COEUR S ´OUVRE A TA VOIX”.Valentina is DELILAH,I am not SAMSON…!!!!

  • Leonardo says:

    She has a lot of videos in her channel, plays a great part of standard repertoir that most people look for and answers personally to the commentators. That is, she is accessible, communicative and nice, and is a great pianist and a great virtuose. Right success.

  • Valentina, you will reward us with your version of Consolation # 3?

  • Jim says:

    Valentina has been the inspiration for a character in two sci-fi novels. Not for her musical talent, although that is a part of the character, but rather for her looks, her warm personality and how easily she interacts with us lesser mortals.

  • Valentina, will you reward us with your version of Consolation # 3?

  • Lewis Kelday says:

    I am part of Valentina’s Youtube figures because I am quite simply addicted to her musicality and pianism.
    I understand why she is so adored, a sentiment that has caused me to follow her from concert hall to recording studio since I discovered her in 2006 and as an exceptionally lucky person
    was able to have a chat with conductor Michael Francis in anticipation of myself, wife and a pianist friend sitting in on Valentina’s Rachmaninoff project in the Abbey Road studio in 2009, nearly 2 years ago now.
    Michael had done significant work in Orkney, my place of birth and upbringing hence naturally we shared that interest besides a total belief in Valentina.
    As for Valentina’s playing all I can say is you don’t just watch performances like that, you witness them because they are a musical pinnacle and a pianistic spectacle
    hence I must ask why, given that this was not only all the Rach concertos and the Rhapsody (on Paganini) but also a transcendent synergy with the LSO and producer Michael Fine,
    are we still waiting for their release from Deutsche Grammaphon (with whom I believe they reside) after all this time ? Has this great label abandoned its tradition of promoting the greatest in music in favour of some prevailing fashion ?
    The very label that gave us the Sviatoslav Richter Rach 2 and preludes appears to be sitting on a portfolio we feel sure would be received as monumental and deserves its place in the history of Rachmaninoff recordings !

  • In 2009 and 2010 I’ve been doing video-interviews with the incredible, one and only Valentina Lisitsa and videotaped some of her recording sessions and rehearsals. I’d especially like to recommend my video-report (see the three links below) concerning Valentina’s Rachmaninoff Project. This project concerned the recording of the four piano concerti and the Paganini Variations with the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Michael Francis. In this report interviews with Valentina Lisitsa, conductor Michael Francis and producer Michael Fine are alternated with impressions of the recording sessions. Being there in the Abbey Road Studios, witnessing Valentina’s marvellous Rachmaninoff-playing was an unforgettable musical experience. Afterwards I’ve also had the opportunity – via producer Michael Fine – to listen to the result of the recordings and they’re really stunning.
    Now it’s waiting for the DG-release. Hopefully soon!
    Following below are the links to my video-report.

    Part 1 of ‘Valentina Lisitsa’s Rachmaninoff Project’

    Part 2 of ‘Valentina Lisitsa’s Rachmaninoff Project’

    Part 3 of ‘Valentina Lisitsa’s Rachmaninoff Project’

  • Valentina’s videos are the most watched classical piano videos on YouTube, that’s now a solid, valid fact.

    YouTube is an uncontrollable entity. You cannot promote yourself on it; all you can do is post your video clips on it; and only the viewers can score hits for you by watching your video.

    In case of Valentina Lisitsa, the people have spoken. They want her. They want her badly. They want to hear her, and they want to watch her. Above all, they want her more than they want any other pianist, including the current piano superstars, Lang Lang and such.

    Now, I am curious about music business professionals. Are they all looking the other way? Or are they just plain stupid or lazy not to see the opportunity here, in plain sight?

    • Phillip Sear says:

      Valentina Lisitsa has done very well on YT because a) she is the real deal; b) she was an early entrant to YouTube (and this has a bearing on how high videos appear in search results) c) some of her videos have the appearance of being homemade which helps them communicate. She also answers viewers’ comments, and that is the real key to success on YT – the community aspect. There are plenty of wonderful performances on YT that only get a handful of views – because the uploaders make no attempt to enter into any dialogue with the viewers. Often the titles are misspelt and the descriptions are missing or weak, which means that the videos will not be found in searches. That extra effort might put some music business professionals off. Also, making revenues from YT is possible but problematic owing to the stringent copyright declarations that now have to be made for partner videos – from my personal experience it is not always easy to present a formal case for owning all the rights.

  • Misha says:

    Actually, Valentina’s highest scoring video on YouTube is Beethoven’s Fur Elise. It has 1,920,600 views. That is right, almost 2 million views…
    Just a correction…

  • I have everything Valentina has had recorded on the interent including interviews, etc. Now that’s addiction of the right kind. I have wondered too where are the recordings of the Rachy Project. I think she may be changing management which as a retired business person agrees, is long overdue for her sake. We are witnessing a period of “dysfunctional everything” in the world and the ARTS may be our last saving grace. I shed tears of joy over some of the music I listen to these days and patiently wait for the rest to just plain wear themselves out over the fruitless efforts of waste. Too much that is good will outlast all in the end.

  • I have everything of Valentina because her playing electrifies and recharges the spirit. Millions have heard and watched this extraordinary talent and patiently wait for more. Thank goodness for the internet that can show to all the finest of talent to inspire our young to a better opportunity.

    Play on Valentina Lisitsa.

  • Brad says:

    The reason more people follow Valentina than Lang Lang is because she is a better pianist.

  • Mikhail says:

    Well, how about this then? Over 3 m views.

  • Janne Seppänen says:

    The thing I really like about Valentina Lisitsa is that she’s not only a very talented pianist, but also a very approachable personality to the general public. I find it quite sweet that she actually replies to comments and questions in YouTube! 🙂

    When it comes to playing, ms. Lisitsa is of course a top-notch pianist. I remember when I accidentally stumbled upon her Moonlight Sonata 3rd movement (the older clip) some years ago and I was immediately sold. After that I spent countless hours on YouTube, watching her amazing interpretations of common virtuoso-pieces like the Chopin Études etc. More recently I’ve become more and more interested in more ‘hard’ music (if that can be said) like Shostakovitch or Prokofiev.

    Why do I mention my personal, probably not-so-interesting musical “growing-up” story? Because I owe it all to Valentina – I’ve just turned 18 and without her I probably wouldn’t listen classical music at all. Of course I’ve had to expand my listening field further than just Valentina’s channel (she cannot possibly upload everything I want to listen) but I still watch Valentina’s videos daily.

    She’s just so amazing. 🙂

    P.S. Please forgive me if my text has some grammatical errors, English isn’t my native language. 🙂

  • Rodolfo Gomes says:

    Mrs. Lisitsa is (if not the greatest) one of the greatests pianists of our days. Her virtuosity, feelings and lightness can’t be compared with the most nowadays pianists.
    But, I must say that’s a shame to see in the market a Kissin (oh, please, for god sake, Kissin!!) CD and not a Lisitsa’s one. She has a lot of projects (Liszt, Rachmaninoff…), but her label doesn’t give oportunities.

    How comes she is the greatest pianist on YouTube?
    1. She is a great pianist;
    2. She could be the greatest pianist in the market, too, if she had space.

    I’m must say that I’m happy about Valentina. I never saw such a attentive, nice, polite and patient artist. Think I’m kidding? Talk with her on YouTube. She will feel good talking to you (and you’ll feel even more).

    Rodolfo Gomes

  • Serge Marianovich says:


    First I must say how immensely I enjoy reading your blog. I find your news and rumours mix just right. Sad to hear about Sanderling . I heard him so many times as a child and his performances are amongst my most cherished memories…
    I am always curious when you mention new names and your discoveries are always right on money. Phillipe Quint was one such case. I wouldn’t have known about that prodigiously gifted young man if not for your posting. Thank you.
    Your latest discovery – mysterious Miss Lisitsa, was a stunner. What I saw has piqued my interest enough to spend a few rainy days searching newspapers, internet and local music shops on a mission to find out more and hopefully buy a CD or two. Strange findings I must report. She has no concerts listed on her website or elsewhere. I was able to trace her past performance at Wigmore quite a few years ago, by a single review only. I tried to order a CD of hers: it is listed in catalogues as her recent Naxos debut – with some very interesting material indeed:
    However, she is not listed on Naxos website and several attempts to order her records led nowhere. A mystery indeed…
    Her Youtube channel more than made up for this disappointment. Having familiarized myself with offerings there , I am dumbfounded at the scope of her talent. I see a lot of people trying to board the same ship ( pretty females with long locks , playing something popular in shamelessly sensual way –be it trumpet or Chopin) but looks have nothing to do with her performances . I would dare to say , the looks damage this fine lady. She looks like many a pretty starlet, some sort of quasi-Gwyneth Paltrow, but she plays like an old man – and I mean it as an utmost compliment of the highest degree. This is good olden-golden age of pianism at its finest.
    In your posting you mentioned her million+ views . I think what is more stunning (if we are to go a-counting ) , her combined videos’ views are not 1 or 3 million – they are 31 million. That’s right, thirty one million and counting.
    Now, my question of the day is : why in the world have I not heard of her before and why can’t I hear her in concert or at least on CD? I see everywhere hints at her complete set of Rachmaninov recorded with LSO. Why can’t I buy it ? I am going to do an unthinkable and raise my voice in asking my favorite yellow label , of which I was such an exemplary customer for decades, to take a look at Lisitsa as a soloist. I don’t want to listen to Ives and other second-tier composers on Decca or DG. In ideal world Miss Hahn should be doing more Bach and Ysaye , Ives should be delegated to Naxos domain, that’s where it belongs. Miss Lisitsa can’t be on Naxos. This is not right. Norm, You should shed more light on this sorry state of affairs.

    • I’ll see what I can find out.

      • Oh, I see the question of Naxos arise once again. I am very guilty of being mum about the fate of that hapless disc, when I should have screamed bloody murder. When fans asked I usually gave a rather coy answer that my CD was not good enough for Naxos, that record label of last resort  Funny, but I think many people accepted the explanation. But even more funny are the rumors surrounding the disappearance and quick demise of this recital disc which would have been effectively my solo debut recording. Two years later I am still without a single CD track on a market. Perhaps it’s time to air the laundry and to behave like a woman scorned  I can send you a long chain of e-mails ending with my lawyer’s letter to Naxos notifying them of their breach of contract and termination of rights. It makes for some amusing reading and yet it’s only a tip of an iceberg… But I must send you a CD in this case as an accompaniment for reading. It is a good CD I think, a very good one  and it must be made available for people to enjoy.

        • …Along with “Rach Project” – complete Rachmaninoff with LSO and Michael Francis conducting (he is so great ! what a luck it was to have him agree to do it). In a way I don’t blame Naxos for wanting it – in fact they wanted it before I knew I am going to record it. Visionary indeed !

  • Rod Waldes says:

    I have been a follower of Hilary Hahn for many years and discovered Valentina at the Wigmore Hall when she toured with Hilary almost four years ago. Since then I have been privileged to have heard her live on several occasions as accompanist, as soloist (at Wigmore Hall), and as a concerto soloist. I have always been blown away by the sheer quality and musicianship of her playing.
    Her personality is unassuming and delightful.This comes across in many of her interviews with Pieter de Rooij which are available on YouTube. I have had the pleasure of seeing her after her concerts and the queues of fans waiting in long line to see her and talk with her are every bit as long as for Hilary (and indeed as for many other artists included on DG’s catalogue). I find it hard to credit that her Rachmaninoff can be laying on DGs desk rather on the store racks where they must undoubtedly desrve to be.
    Incidently, searching Amazon for the Hahn/Lisitsa Ives recording mentioned in the other thread – US site offers release in October; UK says release in January 2012, and Amazon Germany doesn’t even list at all!! What a strange world record companies seem to live in. And bang goes my Christmas shopping list idea!!!
    So come on DG lets have more Valentina and soon – there is a market out there just waiting to be tapped.

  • Stan says:

    Naxos wanted Valentina to sign all the rights to her recordings over to them, and she naturally
    refused. She funded the recordings herself!
    I agree that these would sell well.
    The old LPs have been long out of print. The label no longer exists.
    It does seem odd that DGG isn’t eager to publish her recordings. But there may be some financial negotiations going on.

  • Samy F Hedayah says:

    From my watching of her exquisite performances along the Last couple of years, and from the interviews she made in that duration, I can conclude a few characteristics of the lovely and the great Valentinia Lisitsa,,,artistically or technically as a musically and pianistically wise, I believe that I wouldn’t be able to find words to express my impression towards her utmost perfection, more than the words I always find in her fans comments,,,,She certainly possesses some exceptional qualities, mental, psychological,and spiritual qualities,,,mentally such as sharp intelligence, exclusive memory ( I believe it’s mostly fantastic photographic memory), a hyper concentration ability, and psychological such as a high self-esteem, an absolute dedication to her work, she loves her work in a sacred way, very honest and loyal person to her work, to her family( husband and son), to her friends, to her fans, and to herself, she is strict and serious once she steps on the stage, she is a child, a merry child even among her family or her close friends, she is the first one to stretch her hand to help any one around her that she finds he needs help, either she knows him, her or it or not, she knows firmly what responsibility is, therefore she pays a great respect to her work and in turn to her audience and fans, she is a very kindhearted and modest person, and saves no effort to please as much as she can everyone around her, and that includes her audience, when you listen to her, when you watch her playing, you feel that she is trying to transmit her feelings, her sensation of the work she is interpreting to you by all means, that’s why you feel yourself drawn or attracted to what she is performing, as if something ethereal is being transmitted between her and you,,,that is in my belief is Valentina Lisitsa, and as I’d mentioned before only someone with such QUALITIES and PURITY can produce such radiating beauty….. Thank you dear Valina…………….Samy.