Exclusive: This time, Valentina Lisitsa cancels Toronto

Exclusive: This time, Valentina Lisitsa cancels Toronto


norman lebrecht

May 04, 2015

Two recitals on May 8 and 9 in Oakville have been called off by the pianist after doubts came to light about the organiser’s credibility.

Documents seen by Slipped Disc reveal that the concert organiser, a developer by name of Les Holdway, made claims of being linked to two charities and gave assurances that he had made payments  both to the concert venue and to Steinways for a grand piano.

None of these commitments was validated.

On Friday, Lisitsa ordered Holdway to take down the concert announcements and refund those who had purchased tickets. Holdway had offered to put on the concerts ‘in defence of freedom of expression’ after the Toronto Symphony buckled to local Ukrainian pressure and cancelled a concerto by Lisitsa, who has tweeted anti-Kiev material. The TSO action provoked a wave of sympathy for the soloist among the Toronto public and media. Holdway’s hapless intervention has not helped her cause.

lisitsa toronto

UPDATE: From Valentina Lisitsa’s cancellation email:

Dear Mr.Holdway,

I don’t know what the reasons are behind your intent to make the concerts on May 8 and 9.  Whether you saw an opportunity as an entrepreneur to make some money on my “five minutes of fame” – or you genuinely tried to do a good deed for the society, inspired by the publicity that surrounded my cause – it’s not for me to judge.
At this point I accept nothing but cold, hard facts that I could verify.
1. You don’t have the charities you said you have. I don’t care about semantics or legal terms or whether they are “in process or being” this or that… The fact is – you don’t have them now. You didn’t have them when you called me to arrange the concerts. By advertising the concert as FUNDRAISER for CHARITIES you mislead people and made me an unwitting participant in this deception.

3. You say you paid over 9000 in expenses for rentals etc in preparation for the concert.
I am yet to hear from Meeting House whether you made %100 nonrefundable deposit. But their rent for commercial and non-profit events is public information. It’s 1/10th of the number you named. Need I say more?
4. I spoke with Steinway and was told that: first of all you didn’t pay them. Second, you downgraded from a concert grand to a small piano without even asking me.
For me it’s enough “evidence”.
Please kindly request Ticketmaster to issue the refunds to the audience.
I will make a statement on Facebook about the cancelation.
I thank you for a hard lesson you gave me: I should be less trusting of people in a future, no matter how good their intents may seem.




  • Christy says:

    I’m sorry, but I don’t believe she made this decision at all. I don’t believe for one minute she didn’t know the situation going in. The Ukrainian diaspora uncovered the false charity claims days ago. The same diaspora she photographs herself giving the finger to. This woman is hate monger who floods her twitter page with hate speech aimed at one particular ethnicity. If she were a German saying the exact same words about Jews, she would be a pariah.

  • tess says:


    The concerts have been cancelled by the organizer several days ago.
    Les Holdway claims on his twitter account the concert were cancelled ‘as focus no longer on music’.
    Also there have been multiple claims his charities were as good as non-existent-

    Also, Steinway said they did NOT intend to donate the piano for the concerts as it was announced in the beginning.

    • norman lebrecht says:

      This is mostly untrue. We have seen the correspondence.

      • Olaugh Turchev says:

        So you saw the correspondence?
        Did Lisitsa showed it to you? Did Holdway showed it to you?
        The whole thing looks like a set up in which she was tricked.

      • Olaugh Turchev says:

        Update: her email says it all indeed.

    • Christy says:

      Yes, it has been clear that these charities were bogus. The media only started discussing it very recently.

  • anon says:


    • Furzwaengler says:

      Verily verily, the good concert-going public have been spared her Sturm und Drang hammerings.

  • Anonne says:

    Agreed. Toronto — and environs — attract enough real pianists not to miss her. And few of those spew hate speech in the nasty sort of terms this bimbo does.

  • Stagedude says:

    An observation: item number two of the ‘cancellation email’ is edited out. My curiousity is piqued.

  • Christy says:

    How do we know these emails aren’t for show? We don’t have his responses. Maybe he wrote back, “What are you talking about? We talked about all this.” This is a woman who calls whole populations of people trash and seems to laugh at their deaths, after all.

    • norman lebrecht says:

      We have seen some of his replies.

      • Christy says:

        Good, Norman. But regardless, as is clear from these replies, I think Ms. Lisitsa has likely damaged her career significantly. She seems like the type who can twist and turn enough to survive, but I doubt the career she might have had will materialize. And I for one am thrilled. There are enough wonderful pianists who are not war and hate mongers.

  • FDN says:

    Not true. Organizer canceled the event days ago, as reported in this article on May 2, 2015.
    Oakville concert of controversial pianist Valentina Lisitsa is canceled http://www.examiner.com/article/oakville-concert-of-controversial-pianist-valentina-lisitsa-is-canceled

  • tess says:

    In any case, if I were her manager, I’d be furious, mostly at her.

  • lextune says:

    I laughed out loud. ….I have heard her play well, but you are mostly correct. She plays too much. She lacks a certain type of focus.

  • Roman Kosarenko says:

    It’s puzzling that this article comes on May 4, while Les Holdway cancelled on Twitter on May 2 at 10:21am. Valentina is active online, it is hard to believe that her email to Holdway was sent before Holdway tweeted about the cancellation. Do you have the timestamp on Valentina’s letter?

  • Milka says:

    The whole affair is a “Farce ” the only thing for Ms. Lisitsa to do now is to give a free concert , to show the world and Oakville whatever nobility of character she has left to her . I might also
    suggest that she contact a certain Putin to sponsor the concert , he had no trouble
    with the Ukraine – Oakville for whatever it’s worth should be a piece of pie .A large
    picture of Putin displayed at back of stage like they used to do in the past when displaying the mass murderer Stalin .I suspect what really caused the cancellation was her being downgraded to a “small” piano to match her talents. Lisitsa at a small upright
    would have been hilarious cartoon -we have lost out on that alone .

  • Nick says:

    Any artist trusting organisations they have never worked with before (and clearly in this case knew little if anything about before) is setting themselves up for trouble. In an effort to capitalise on her “five minutes of fame”, Lisitsa and her management put on blinkers and were downright foolish! All the positive PR she expected to garner has vanished. Expect a lot more spin as she digs herself out of this disaster.

  • Jenny says:

    So why Valentina Lisitsa was responding to her followers exactly what was said by Les Hol Holdway ?

    Moreover, she said that she was tried to transfer her concert of May 9th to May 7th.

  • Anonne says:

    She’s said all sorts of things. She says far too much. How Slipped Disc has got behind someone so clearly enamoured of Nazi imagery and styles of language, not to mention attitudes, is beyond me. She is not such a great talent as to be forgiven all. And considering anyone who seem in any way friendly with Putin — agreed, a dodgy choice — comes in for excoriation on this site every time he/she draws breath, how does this apologist for the Russian invasion escape the opprobrium while simultaneously spewing filthy language an images on her Twit account?

    • norman lebrecht says:

      Behind a mask of anonymity, you have no right to judge anyone’s talent. Valentina speaks in her own name. We defend her freedom of expression.

      • Stagedude says:

        Erm, we do in fact have the right to express ourselves anonymously.

        • norman lebrecht says:

          Indeed, but not to abuse or belittle others who cannot reciprocate in kind. Not on this site, at least.

          • Stagedude says:

            Agreed. And as the landlord of this site, you can enforce that as you see fit. To me, much of the issue here is about privileges, which are very often confused with rights.

          • norman lebrecht says:

            Moot point.

          • A says:

            A: She can respond of she wants to.

            B. I have never been able to find a list of the rules of this site. I am happy to adhere to them. Could you please point it out?

          • norman lebrecht says:

            Click the ‘About’ button at the top of the site.

          • A says:

            Thank you. Read and taken on board.

  • Milka says:

    Stagedude , as in everything ,it all depends on whose ox is being gored .

    • V.Lind says:

      So it seems. In Canada, there is a difference in law between free speech and hate speech. Although TSO did not have recourse to law — apparently their contractual terms allowed them to cancel the appearance — they would have had little problem if they had taken her to law.

  • Dimas says:

    Behind the scenes of Lisitsa’s cancelled Oakville concerts or Les Holdway’s side of the story http://euromaidanpress.com/2015/05/06/the-art-of-being-difficult-behind-the-scenes-of-lisitsas-cancelled-oakville-concerts/

  • Ronald Blanchard says:

    Whatever one thinks of Ms. Lisitsa’s commentary, its controversy has focused our attention on the first casualty of this Ukranian civil war: the truth.