The most-watched Tchaikovsky concerto on Youtube

The most-watched Tchaikovsky concerto on Youtube


norman lebrecht

April 27, 2015

Someone mentioned that a violinist I was chatting to at dinner was a Yotube sensation with her 2011 recording of the Tchaikovsky concerto, conducted by Yuri Temirkanov.

Sure enough, Sayaka Shoji has racked up almost six million views for a performance that is intense, individual, exceptional in every desirable way (though I suspect she’d rather be playing the Ligeti).

So why isn’t Sayaka getting the big limelight dates in London and New York?

Thrills and spills (mostly spills) of the music business.

Sayaka Shoji

See what you think.


  • T-ARAFANBOY says:

    Glad to see her name come up here.
    I’ve been listening to her Sibelius for a while:

    She’s great in Prokofiev too.

  • Nick says:

    I have seen her twice in concert playing the Tchaikovsky and Dvorak. She is superb.

  • Robert Eshbach says:

    I have loved this for a long time. Simply wonderful.

  • Sergei says:

    Yes, we badly need another recording of Tchaikovsky’s violin concerto, because it would be the number 300. Great!

  • Ivor Morgan says:

    Just think how much frenzy there was for the return of Kyung Wha Chung a few months ago. It was like the second coming of Christ . But from the Sibelius performance Sayaka is a much greater player.

    We should all follow her career I think. Thanks for introducing her – I’m glad I browsed through SD today !

    • Yawen Liu says:

      Kyung Wha Chung is my favorite violinist, her preciseness and the control and everything about her performance is unique, nontheless it did not prevent me to love Sakaya Shoji’s phenomonal performance. i felt astonished after hearing Sakaya, and just glad that she is still so young, so we will have a lot of chances to hear her again and again live
      Shoji reminded me of Gidon Kremer, especially at performing Brahms.
      We all have preferences, but comparing one to another doesn’t de-value other talents out there

  • L.F. says:

    In the second movement “Canzonetta” the solo violin should play piano and “con sordino”. Miss Shoji does neither.

    Tschaikovsky wrote in a letter about this movement to his benefactor Mme von Meck: “The Canzonetta is just wonderful. How much poetry and what longing is in these veiled and secretive sounds!”. I hear nothing of the sort in the rendition of Miss Shoji.

    Violin playing and music making is not a gymnastics competition but should have something to do with sprit and meaning.

  • L.F. says:

    In the second movement “Canzonetta” the solo violin should play piano and “con sordino”. Miss Shoji does neither.

    Tschaikovsky wrote about this movement to his benefactor Mme von Meck: “The Canzonetta is just wonderful. How much poetry and what longing is in these veiled and secretive sounds!”. I hear nothing of the sort.

    Violin playing and music making is not a gymnastics competition but should have something to do with sprit and meaning.

  • Alvaro Mendizabal says:

    Norman, I think we both know the answer. The inner workings of the music industry are immune to social media – Lisitsa didn’t get her breakthrough because of Youtube, but because of the good old, time-tested combination of Management and the interest of a Label (who USED her social media as a differentiating value proposition, just as they use Calleja’s birthplace).

    As you very well know, the venues curate content for a subscriber base, or for the demographics of their locales. The problem with social media is that it is descentralized. A middle tier orchestra doesnt give a damn if an artist has 4 million views in Turkmenkistan, Bangladesh or the French Guyana. A top orchestra has solid subscriptions who demand artists from top tier agencies and labels. Who acts as a filter? Management agencies of course. If not, everybody and anybody could go to an orchestra with an Ipad and say “look, I have XXXXXXX views in your town, I am going to fill the concert hall”. With hack programs that can boost viewership, the existence of these “fans” is highly doubtful. On the other hand, if an agency (specially one with any repute) pushes an artist, they have their name on the line – its a much more tangible and trusted channel for all stakeholders.

    Yes, you might say “but they would’ve never gotten interested had it not been for youtube” – well, it was something hip/modern, which the industry as a whole craves for every day and Lisitsa played it beautifully. Further, it appeals to the “reach out to new audiences” meme that is the obsession of the arts. Has it worked? For Lisitsa sure, but I highly doubt that anybody can quantify if even a single new “fan” for classical music has been created thanks to her videos. Nobody can. What is tangible, is the great Buzz that such positioning creates, but its proven to be diffuse, and therefore very difficult for newcomers to erode Lisitsa’s value proposition. First mover advantage is precisely that, an advantage and I ponder she’ll be the only true ‘youtube star’ of classical music.

    So, keep collecting ‘hits’ in youtube, ‘fans’ on Facebook, etc – its at large a complete waste of time.

    CASE IN POINT: Ana Vidovic- classical guitarist – has a video of Asturias with SEVEN MILLION views, and 7 other videos with over

    So, norman, why isnt Carnegie Hall presenting classical guitar on Stern (last one was Segovia, 30 years ago) – with 7 million ‘Fans’ one could certainly find 3000 people to fill the Hall right?. Why are orchestras presenting Tchaikovsky more than they do Albeniz? Clearly, with so many views, Albeniz would bring more “fans” to the concert hall, right? Vidovic’s video is from before DG signed Milos – why didnt they sign her?

    MY ANSWER: BECAUSE YOUTUBE/FB PLAY NO ROLE!! Unless you are the first one to make that claim (which is, essentially unclaimable!) That was the genius play by Lisitsa (and her management, obviously).

    Here is Vidovic’s video, you can be her “fan” 7,038,185.

  • Robert Levin says:

    She needs some architectural guidance, in particular the very opening measures of the concerto. Perhaps listening to Nathan Milstein would help. Having said that, I find her to be an impressive talent.

  • Milka says:

    Dime a dozen …….

    • milu says:

      Would an obstreperous Milka understand the subtlety of a performer whose aim is to transmit the soul of the composer directly to that of the listener? Shoji’s magic lies in the power of her sound and her transcendent self effacement. Eschewing showy histrionics, which she did in her teens when she won the Paganini competition, or her later elegance, this performer now has her sights set on higher ideals. Listen and learn, Milka.

  • Milu says:

    milka may be right about Kopatchinskaja and Repin, but how wrong Milka is about Shoji,

  • David says:

    Come on! Sayaka has been playing in London at Festival Hall & Barbican regularly from 2001 until 2014 with LSO and Philahrmonia under Temirkanov! Her last performance in London was at Wigmore in 2016. Basically until you post this article, she was coming to play in big venues in London each 2 years!!!
    Bravo for making a wrong reputation as if she wasn’t playing in London at all.

    • Milu says:

      According to her agent, Sayaka Shoji has played in London:

      2016 Wigmore Hall
      2015 Hamsptead Festival
      2013 Philharmonia / Temirkanov
      2010 Philharmonia / Temirkanov

      And ‘we are currently working on a return’, said her agent at Harrison Parrott.

      In this interview,, time 1:07, Temirkanov said he first heard Shoji play ‘when she was a teenager, she was 17 or 18’ and she played ‘splendidly’. He thought perhaps she was good at Prokofiev. They then played the Tchaikovsky concerto together, and she played it “much better than some Russians, that amazed me”, he said, “and since then I have respected her as a musician. ”

      Interestingly, Shoji in her Wigmore program deviated from the usual self-hype, and stated very simply she plays in Russia. If I were a serious musician, I too would prioritise where the discerning and appreciative audience are over what may be ‘ big limelight dates’ that Mr Lebrecht seem to be so impressed by.

  • Egill Bragason says:

    She still has a long way to go before she matches Ginette Neveu. Look at Chaussons Poeme for comparison. Hayfets never came even close to the two of them.

  • Milu says:

    a long way? or a different way? She isn’t GN, thats for sure. She is Shoji. I find it very very odd that the most critical, vociferous, inane, opinionated and sweeping comments about an artist’s abilities are often from those who 1. have NOT even bothered to hear the artist in question live, not even once, at least the living ones 2. in this case base their verdict on youtube videos that are at least 15 years out of date for the living one, and a recording that is at least 80 years old, that has gone through repeated degeneration through multiple re-recordings … frightening what people’s egos will believe and insist…