Just in: Val steps in at a day’s notice for sick Boris

Just in: Val steps in at a day’s notice for sick Boris


norman lebrecht

January 07, 2014

It was lucky Valentina Lisitsa was in Paris today. Boris Berezovsky called in sick for tomorrow’s Liszt concerto. Val, who’s just released a Liszt disc, was happy to oblige. No change of programme. Press announcement follows.


Pour nos prochains concerts des 8 et 9 janvier, je dois vous communiquer un changement de dernière heure concernant le pianiste Boris Berezovsky.




Paavo Järvi, direction

Valentina Lisitsa, piano



Affettuoso, « In memoriam Henri Dutilleux »

Commande de l’Orchestre de Paris – création mondiale



Concerto pour piano et orchestre n° 1

Danse macabre pour piano et orchestre « Totentanz »



Symphonie n° 4


  • Wow. I find it incredible that a human being can have so much music at their fingertips.

    I would not want to play chess against her.

    • Hongkonger says:

      What bizarre comments. Surely most concert pianists would have the LIszt in their repertoire (except perhaps those for whom LIszt was not their thing) as it is pretty mainstream. It’s not as if she had agreed to play the Schoenberg on a day’s notice.

      And what connection is there to chess? I don’t care how many concerti she knows, I can’t play the piano at all but would happily take her on over the board!

      • Jason says:

        She has a photographic memory. When she was younger she was thinking about becoming a professional chess player because she can memorize moves like a computer. The comment is by no means bizarre. She remember every single piece of music that she’s ever seen and can play it any time.

      • Yes, she had it in her repertoire and has performed it as recently as 2011, and maybe after that. But to get it up to performance standards in a few hours, and play without the music, requires an astonishing mind. But you do admit you do not play the piano so you would not know the difficulties.

        The connection to chess is that she wanted to be a professional chess player.

        • Graeme Hall says:

          Sorry, but for a professional concert pianist who is touted so much on this site, it is really not that special. I once saw Kirill Gerstein as a replacement in Rachmaninov 3 when he flew into town in the morning (long haul at that), one rehearsal in the afternoon, performance in the evening.

          Jason and Peter M are clearly not serious chess players if they think it is all about memorising moves. That’s simply not how professional players (or even computers once they are outside the opening) play

  • Jeroen says:

    She cancelled her concert for the 8th in Eindhoven stating scheduling issues. What is happening here?

  • Last-minute substitution for well-known artists is a tried-and-true way for young artists to gain recognition and to build a career as a concert artist. Leonard Bernstein started out that way substituting on short notice for Bruno Walter. But even if the announced soloist isn’t physically indisposed, other factors can produce similar stress-filled situations.

    One of my favorite stories is from Gary Graffman’s book “I Really Should Be Practicing” where he goes into the first rehearsal (don’t remember which orchestra and conductor it was … guess you’ll have to buy the book to find out! 🙂 ) of what he was led to believe was the Rachmaninoff Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. There was a bit of difficulty starting up, since both the conductor (and orchestra) were led to believe that Rachmaninoff’s 2nd Piano Concerto was to be performed, unbeknownst to Mr. Graffman. Obviously, both conductor and soloist were waiting for the other to begin! Fortunately, the misunderstanding was rapidly cleared up, and since Gary Graffman had both pieces in his fingers, the change was seamlessly done.

    But how many performing pianists today could do what Beethoven did at the premiere performance of his 1st piano concerto in C Major? The piano was tuned 1/2 tone too low, so Beethoven spontaneously transposed the entire concerto up to C# Major! (…how he played the octave glissandi in the first movement in the new key was not documented, however! 🙂 ).

  • Warren Cohen says:

    The most bizarre substitution story I ever heard was that once Arthur Rubinstein canceled at recital date the night before and Simon Barere was called in to cover the date. He asked “what was his program?” and played Rubinstein’s program. Apparently this was near the end of the summer and Barere had been on vacation and had not touched the piano in a month.

    • Alexei Kuznetsoff says:

      Valentina has not played either piece since November of 2011 and did not have either one scheduled for the performance in future. She of course plays Totentanz regularly but the solo work is significantly different from the orchestral version.