Youtube's most popular pianist – coming up on Deutsche Grammophon

Youtube's most popular pianist – coming up on Deutsche Grammophon


norman lebrecht

September 12, 2011

No sooner did I name Valentina Lisitsa as the pianist with the million-most hits on Youtube than a colleague helpfully pointed out she has a release coming up next month on the yellow label.

It could be that DG’s publicists haven’t spotted it yet since the big name on the album is Hilary Hahn, playing fairly obscure sonatas by Charles Ives. But down there in second billing is our Val on piano.

And now that Berlin HQ has read about her Youtube fame on slipped disc, the DG bosses might even bump her up the publicity schedules ahead of Hilary’s twit-famous violin case for an interview or two. You never know.

Hilary Hahn Ives: Four Sonatas Album Cover


  • Florestain says:

    Well, they booked an interview for the page turner, so why not?

  • Emil Archambault says:

    Valentina Lisitsa has been touring with Hilary Hahn for the past year or so.

  • I first saw them together in 2007, and even from that early stage I saw such a great chemistry and such colorful timbre from their dynamics as a duo. They’d been playing the Ives Sonatas in recital for about as many years, and if anyone should be making an album of those pieces, who better than Hilary and Valentina?

  • Lewis Kelday says:

    My wife and I have been pleased to watch this duo in London and Brussels, and of course these were hugely memorable performances.

    Besides that – quite frankly – any excuse to watch Valentina play. Valentina is a perfect complement to Hilary Hahn and together they bring everything alive. Nevertheless can I vouch that Valentina is a consummate artistic virtuoso soloist whose light is being persistently hidden under a bushel by an apparent blindness on the part of the recording establishment which we find impossible to understand.

    Valentina’s Youtube following has as its basis a yearning for her playing that is frequently expressed in calls and appeals for recordings. If she were to record everything she can play I would buy all of them, yet even the entire set of Rachmaninoff concertos and the Rhapsody (Paganini) with LSO, conductor Michael Francis (whom I have been fortunate to meet) and producer Michael Fine are sitting, I understand, with DG instead of where they belong – on sale to an eager public. I watched these recordings being incarnated and can vouch that they belong with posterity so come on DG, where are they ?

  • I’m very pleased, Norman, to read this message noticing the unique and fabulous classical pianist Valentina Lisitsa. The number of views she gets on YouTube is very telling. As an experienced music producer for Radio Netherlands (the dutch international service, and for Concertzender Radio ( I’m really amazed and puzzled by how it’s possible that leading big classical labels haven’t noticed her exceptional playing years before she started playing with Hilary Hahn. DG (Deutsche Grammophon) seems now to have finally noticed Valentina Lisitsa, which is exemplified by next month’s release of the album ‘Ives: Four Sonatas’, where she plays with world renowned violinist Hilary Hahn. I’ve heard them live together, they’re a perfect match. Good work DG! But I want to say more about Valentina and then I have a question for the DG HQ.
    Many thousands (often very critical) music lovers all over the world have already recognized Valentina Lisitsa’s greatness and some of them have even cross continents to be able to hear her live in concert. I’ve had the unique opportunity to follow some of Valentina Lisitsa’s career steps from a close range in the past two years. I’ve documented – through making interviews and filming recording sessions – two of her latest projects and published the material on my YouTubechannel ( ). I was up and close Valentina’s Chopin Etudes cd-recording project in Hannover in 2010 and earlier, during two weekends in 2009, I witnessed in London in the Abbey Road Studios her largest and most ambitious project so far: the Rachmaninoff Project. At Abbey Road she recorded the four piano concerti and the Paganini Variations with the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by the brilliant young conductor Michael Francis. The project was finished in Spring 2010. For me it turned out to be the most revelatory Rachmaninoff-experience so far. I know and love these concerti and through the years I’ve listened to many great performers, but to my ears no-one has been as convincing as Valentina Lisitsa… unmatched playing. I’ve made a 24-minute videoreport about the first weekend of the recordings (piano concerti 1&2), published in 3 parts on my YouTubechannel, see: In this report interviews with Valentina Lisitsa, conductor Michael Francis and producer Michael Fine are alternated with impressions of the recording sessions.
    I’ve also already heard the end result of the recordings and they are in one word: ‘stunning’. Producer Michael Fine – Grammy winning classical producer and a Rachmaninoff specialist par excellence – says in my report about Valentina’s playing of the Rachmaninoff-concerti: “(..) with all due respect to all the other great performers of this music, nobody comes close to this since the composer.” Now, the Rachmaninoff recordings were finished a long time ago already and ever since I have received mail from people all over the world who found out about my video-report and about other videos. One recurring question keeps ringing and it goes something like this: “When will Valentina’s Rachmaninoff-recordings be released? I’ll buy them immediately!” As I’ve received so many of these mails already, guess how many Valentina herself must have received by now about this matter. So here’s what I really don’t get. To the best of my knowledge Valentina’s Rachmaninoff Project recordings have been on the reviewing table of DG for more than a year now already, but it seems so far no action has been undertaken there to release them. I’d like to ask DG: why are you waiting with the release? Many thousands of music lovers all over the world are eager to hear and buy these wonderful recordings by Valentina Lisitsa. Take a look at her YouTube-figures again (and the huge customer market behind them) and listen to her recordings on your table. I’m sure DG HQ’s conclusion can be no other than: ‘Release immediately!’ 🙂

  • Hearing Valentina play is a mystical experience. And a mystical experience is something that cannot be described in words, only conveyed in sounds such as “Oh!” and “Ah!” And that is what the audiences have been doing ever since Valentina sat at the piano.

    I will never forget the experience of hearing Valentina playing Rachmaninoff’s music. Suddenly, I found myself inside a painting, my mind transformed into shapes, colors, and fantastic structures – none of which I could describe in words afterwards. I kept asking myself, “What is this magic?! How does she do it?!”

    We have heard pianists who could eloquently “tell” us about composers and their music. We have certainly heard pianist who could eloquently “tell” us about themselves, a-plenty. Valentina is the first who is “telling” us about the Mystical Realm whence all the composers and all the music comes from. While she is playing a piece, she is writing an icon in sound. These sounds resemble very little of this world, and the piece becomes a window into the invisible and transcendent world, where angels dwell. She then takes us into that mystical world. We hear the last chord, the sound still linger in the air, the window closes, but from that moment we are changed.

  • promo-video for the upcoming Ives-album of Hilary and Valentina:

  • Norbert Lagrass says:

    I have no opinion yet about Valentina but will listen with great interest to her when I have time tomorrow. I’m not that optimistic despite the positive comments. Looking at her website and at the IMG Artists website one does have to ask why at the age of 38 she only has concerts in places like Rockville, Illinois and dates with the Helsinki Philharmonic and the Colorado Symphony. Maybe her artistic personality has not been able to communicate itself to conductors or the public in the concert hall, but is more suitable to the intimacy (and shortness) of a video. It is also possible to edit the sound in a video.
    I am always allergic when reading comments which say things like “many thousands (often very critical) music lovers all overe the world have already recoginzed Lisitsa’s greatness” especially when referring to YouTube figures. How does Mr de Rooij know this – whereas I know professionally how easy it is to fake YouTube figures and especially the provenance of the viewers. He says that Michael Fine is a Rachmaninoff specialist par excellence whereas a brief look at all the recordings Mr Fine has made on http://www.allmusic com shows he has hardly ever recorded Rachmaninoff. I only looked because of Mr Fine’s wonderful marketing plug “(..) with all due respect to all the other great performers of this music, nobody comes close to this since the composer.” Go away Richter and Horowitz whoever you were! Mr de Leeij says people will cross continents to hear her – well, looking at her calendar, they have to!

    • Oh please, spare me, Mr. Lagrass. You go to to find out about Micheal Fine’s long career in the music and recording business? And how do you think someone can fake more than 31 million YouTube-views? Also, Valentina has performed in far more prestigious venues and with more famous orchestra than you mention, you must know this, so why is your information so selective?
      As far as the Rachmaninoff-concerti are concerned, I know and heard many of the greatest players (there’s so many more than Richter and Horowitz), Valentina included, so I know from experience what I’m talking about and I don’t even need to refer to Michael Fine as I have excellent ears myself. You’re a little late I think, but I hope you will pursue your effort in finding out about Valentina Lisitsa – that is, listening to her recordings – and wish you a very pleasant musical journey.

  • Antonino Trotta says:

    I still wonder how it is possible that no record label has released the latest masterpieces signed Valentina Lisitsa! Especially the concerts of Rachmaninoff! Mr. Norman Lebrecht he is a prominent critic of art and certainly an admirer of classical music! You will then agree with me that the energy, power, virtuosity and lyricism of the Rachmaninoff concerts is expressed by Valentina Lisitsa irrefutably! Is there someone who can play the 4th concert in the same spirit of Valentina? And yet you have ventured into it the likes of Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli! Yet in his interpretation, although technically perfect, it lacks the speed, wit and impeccable touch that make the interpretation of Valentina Lisitsa extremely bright and unique! And we want to talk about the third concert? A concert so majestic, it seems a struggle between piano and orchestra, a fight where Valentina is definitely winning! The passion with which she performs the second movement is alarming, even to those of classical music has not heard about! And then the transition from second to third movement, there is someone who performs better than Valentina? I wonder why the labels are uncertain on the release of the compilation. Valentina deserve to record for Deutsche Grammophon! Tell me honestly if it does not share this thought with me, I’m curious to hear the opinion of someone who is extremely competent and understand why the record companies decide not to release the album!