Valentina Lisitsa to play in occupied Ukraine

Valentina Lisitsa to play in occupied Ukraine


norman lebrecht

June 03, 2015

The increasingly politicised pianist has told a Russian broadcaster that she will play an open-air recital on June 22 in Donetsk, capital of the Russian-backed Donetsk People’s Republic in a former part of Ukraine. ‘I think that’s the best kind of service I can possibly do for the people of Donbass,’ she said. ‘They want to have peace.’

The date is significant: the 74th anniversary of the German invasion of the Soviet Union.

You can hear her announcement in English here. It has been disseminated by the Russian Embassy in Canada.

let valentina2


  • Simon S. says:

    “in a former part of Ukraine” – err, as so far no country in the world (not even Russia!) has officially recognised the “Donetsk People’s Republic”, this is still a part of Ukraine, though currently not under control of the Ukrainian government.

  • Novagerio says:

    But Norman, how would you measure those past heroics according to todays political standards?…

    “Gilels is playing at the front, to remind us what the war is worth fighting for: Immortal music!”

  • JayPee says:

    Are we talking about “this” Valentina Lisitsa?

    “Her posts on Twitter repeatedly call Ukrainians Nazis and depicts them as a population of idiots and the insane; one purports to illustrate the leadership’s faces with a photograph of pigs’ testicles. The feed also has some racism and overtones of anti-Semitism thrown in for good measure.”

    Is there any reason why we are constantly informed about the whereabouts of this person?

    • norman lebrecht says:

      The WP report is inaccurate. VL is not in any sense racist or antisemitic. She is, however, a significant figure in the music world and we report her activities as and when they are newsworthy.

      • Anne Midgette says:

        The accuracy of my Washington Post piece has been contested due solely, as far as I can tell, to my having included a link to a Lisitsa tweet of a picture of Igor Kolomoisky, one of the richest men in Ukraine, wearing a T-shirt with the slogan “жидобандера,” which Lisitsa translated as “Bandera’s kike.” Lisitsa was not branding him as a kike, but making the point that she found the T-shirt in poor taste, though translation itself involves many personal decisions, and not everyone gives the prefix “жидо” the spin she does; others have rendered the word along the lines of “Jewish Bandera-ite.” I linked to this image from the words “overtones of anti-semitism” (the full line was “the feed has some racism and overtones of anti-Semitism thrown in for good measure”), and some took this to mean that I didn’t understand Lisitsa’s point, and therefore dismissed everything I actually said in the article. I didn’t hear any other specific criticisms even from those who disagreed with me, and I’d love to know in what other regards my piece was found to be “inaccurate.” To deny the racism of the post about the Ukrainian national costumes seems wilfully naïve.

        • norman lebrecht says:

          I don’t read Ukrainian, Anne, and cannot vouch for Val’s translation, or for her command of English (or American) nuance. But having known her for years, ever since she passed through London as Ida Haendel’s accompanist, the idea that she is anti-semitic, or would wilfully utter a racist slogan, is absurd. I despair of the naivety of her political stance, but let’s not make it worse than it is by muddying the issue with irrelevant charges of racism – charges which come, in the main, from actively racist pro-Kiev sources. There are no rights and wrongs in this conflict, only wrongs.

          • Vitali Averbukh says:

            I am a bit of a chance visitor here, but could not refrain from a brief comment. Being actually able to read Russian and Ukrainian, and being Jewish, I can find absolutely nothing antisemitic or racist in Valentina’s attacks on the Ukrainian government and its supporters. You can definitely call her political stance naive, but it looks to me as a kind of naivety I could live with. The political naivety of her opponents, on the other hand, looks to me plainly dangerous. So, in the end I am not so sure about “no rights and wrongs”.

    • tess says:

      Thanks for pointing this out. The Washington Post was one of the most accurate and most sensibly piece written on the subject.

  • Milka says:

    Past heroics ????? political standards ??? spare us ….you might recall
    Molotov – Ribbentrop Pact ….

  • Adrian Bryttan says:

    Oh my… already Ms. Lisitsa is promising her fans she will post YouTube videos of her latest drama to be staged in occupied Donetsk. Since we haven’t exactly noticed a stampede of outside artists to this war zone, it is fair to ask what this is all about?

    No one at all would have objected to Anna Netrebko sincerely helping musicians in the Donetsk Opera last year. But the real motive behind her “gift” of 18 thousand dollars became clear when she publicly posed with outlawed terrorist leader Tsarov behind his symbolic flag. Obviously, this was Ms. Netrebko’s rather clumsy attempt to lend legitimacy to the occupiers.

    While playing at the Russian Embassy yesterday, Ms. Lisitsa took advantage of the occasion to preen about her bravery: “I was dangerous to my own government for speaking out”. ( Regarding her bluster, keep in mind Ms. Lisitsa prides herself on being a chess genius, and posted that a “threat is more powerful than the actual event”.)

    But yesterday, she also continued to trumpet “…first and foremost, we should keep repeating over and over that it’s a civil war, Ukrainians against Ukrainians…” In other words, the daily Kremlin talking points… Mind you, this was a concert event originally announced as being “strictly non-political”!

    A “self-styled” YouTube pianist promoting herself to martyrdom and also manufacturing PR for herself by trumpeting some “self-declared” unrecognized people’s republic… what’s next in this soap opera?

  • V.Lind says:

    Surely it is clear by now that the Russians have seized upon a valuable (willing) tool in their propaganda wars. Genuine fans of the pianist may get caught in the crossfire. But her activities can seemingly no longer be separated from her politics. And her politics are her own business, or would be if she would keep them so, but for the nastiness of her expressions. It is hard to cover for, soft-soap or justify the chain of comments that emanated from her social media sites at the time of the TSO controversy — and these, as I recall, were the basis of the Washington Times article. Her apologists might want to have a rethink: the TSO looks wiser by the hour, and Calgary looks as if it, as ever, puts profit before principle.

  • Mark Morrison says:

    It sure appears to me that Lisitsa’s comments are indeed racist (“Ukrainians are Nazis, insane” ). If Lisitsa wants to align herself with Russia and the former KGB-Putin, then, though she may be wonderful at chess, she knows nothing of or ignores the glorious Russian history of anti-semitism and the many many Jews Mother Russia, with the enthusiastic participation of the KGB, slaughtered. Perhaps she has forgotten that, not too many years ago, Jews who applied to emigrate to Israel almost immediately lost their jobs and were totally marginalize, often sent to gulags. Lisitsa is simply a willing stooge of Putin’s. Maybe she is under the spell of his “magnificent” torso.

    It’s been said that it is better to keep one’s mouth closed and be THOUGHT a fool than to open it and make it obvious to everyone that one IS a fool. Valentina should take that advice to heart.

  • Novagerio says:

    Milka; you silly troll! 😀 I meant, why not smear Gilels’ reputation for appearing in a propaganda war film in favour of Stalin’s victory?…. And one more thing; are you folks going to deny that Vseukrajinske objednannia Svoboda are not ukrainian Nazis and are a major force in the Kiev government?

    • Peter says:

      Pointless. This handful of vitriolic Russia haters here will not listen to any rational argument.

      • V.Lind says:

        Lisitsa herself has diverted attention from her political preference by dint of her intemperate rhetorical flourishes, be they racist or just distasteful. On this subject some time ago I acknowledged that she was not necessarily wrong in her hostility to the regime in Kiev, and I certainly wish some western governments were no quite so knee-jerk in their rush to support it. (Getting invaded and having a slice of your country lifted by another can sometimes do that).

        Ms. Lisitsa comes from Russian antecedents and her sympathy lies there. I can well imagine that the Kiev lot inspire her and many others to horror. But Russia can hardly come out of this conflict smelling of roses — it essentially picked the fight and trampled all over its neighbour in a might is right campaign. It makes Ms. Lisitsa’s posturing, at the very least, unbecoming, and some of her terminology has been aggressively ugly and not unreasonably characterised as racist in places.

  • Milka says:

    One is not going to read much speaking to the truth here , along with those that suffer
    from convenient amnesia , any so called rational argument is based solely on whose
    ox is being gored .By noting there are only wrongs in this conflict is a cop out .

  • Lewis Owens says:

    Some very interesting comments. My wife comes from Donetsk and graduated from the Donetsk Prokofiev Conservatoire. Her parents and family still reside there so we daily first-hand reports. We have our own views on Ms Lisista but this forum (which I think is excellent) is perhaps not the place. There is though a discussion after the play ‘Like a Chemist from Canada’ on June 13 (blantant plug! Sorry!). The play deals not only with Shostakovich in 1958 but also on the integrity of art, particularly music. The play is dedicated to the 298 victims of the MH17 air crash who, tragically, seem to have been forgotten. Best wishes to you all, Lewis

  • Michael Moran says:

    I write an occasional blog concerning classical music festivals and competitions in Poland. Lisitsa gave the concluding concerto in Warsaw of the 8th Chopin and his Europe Festival 2012 (Chopin i jego Europa Festiwal 2012) From Bach to Debussy and Kilar.

    Here is what I wrote on the only occasion I have heard her live. I do feel an informed assessment of the quality of her playing and musicianship would be vastly more constructive than the inflammable and counterproductive nature of these posts, often of a most unpleasant ad hominem nature. It soils what is an otherwise fascinating and constructive forum.

    Valentina Lisitsa (piano)
    Sinfonia Varsovia conducted by Jerzy Maksymiuk

    After the interval we were keenly anticipating the glamour and talent of ‘the most sought after classical musician on the Web’ with more than 30 million YouTube views. She would play the Chopin Piano Concerto in E minor Op.11 – one of some forty concertos in her repertoire. Without being cynical perhaps this speaks volumes in itself for the ill-fated outcome.

    I am not in the habit of cruelly dissecting accidents in detail. This was a deeply embarrassing performance by orchestra, conductor and soloist and compassion dictates the event is best passed over in silence. I have no idea why what happened occurred but it was an unfortunate conclusion to a truly wonderful festival.

  • Gonout Backson says:

    One can consider Mrs Lissitsa position as simply “naive”. I cannot. The disgusting term of “жидобандера” smells of the communist propaganda of 1967/68 where, in the Soviet colonies and protectorates, Israel was spelled “Iϟϟrael”, and systematically – but certainly not accidentally – compared to Nazi Germany. Some minds are still poisoned by this: remember how many times Palestinian cities have been compared to “Warsaw Ghetto” by stupid, ignorant officials, UN included. Putin’s anti-Ukrainian, racist propaganda, Mrs Lissitsa so eagerły swallows, does exactly the same: they want to get the best of both worlds, vilifying Ukrainians as “Nazis” as well as “Jews” (they never miss an opportunity to remind us of Porochenko’s or Kolomoisky’s origins). This is exactly what this filthy epithete of “жидобандера” means. Toutes proportions gardées, it’s “Iϟϟrael” all over again.

    • Peter says:

      In your imagination only. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. And learn your language and its semantics. Racism would concern race. Ukrainians, Jews, Russians, these are not races.

    • Alexander Etkin, MD says:

      To Mr. Gonout Backson ( cc Norman Lebrecht, Anne Midgette)
      Sir, your assessment is correct but your vitriol is misplaced.
      It should be directed not towards Lisitsa who rightly expressed her indignation over the disgusting term of “жидобандера” (Yid of Bandera, Bandera – the ideologue behind Holocaust on Ukrainian soil) being trivialized by Ukrainian oligarch.
      It’s Anne Midgette who stated above “not everyone gives the prefix “жидо” the spin she does; others have rendered the word along the lines of “Jewish Bandera-ite”.
      While giving us an impression that Lisitsa is antisemitic, Anne Midgette spins the awful slur as something benign, debatable and non-offensive. My old Baltimore music-loving friends referred me to Mrs. Midgette writing regarding this subject as well as to this website.They asked my opinion on “this antisemitic racist Ukrainian pianist” because this is what Mrs. Midgette writing led them to believe in earnest.
      I will tell you what I told them.
      I never heard of Lisitsa before. I am a retired surgeon, not a musician.
      I cannot vouch for her artistic merits.
      I can, however,as a native Russian speaker,say that I failed to find anything in her writing that offends me – and I am rather touchy on the subject.
      I immigrated from USSR hoping to never hear that awful slur whispered behind my back again.
      Let me tell you this: if someone dares to call me “жид” I will slap their face. Maybe knock their teeth out.
      Let them sue me and quote Anne Midgette in court.
      Ms. Lisitsa is due an apology from all of you, ladies and gentlemen.
      I will make an utmost effort to attend one of her performances in a near future.
      Alexander L Etkin, MD, FACS (retired)

      • Gonout Backson says:

        Dear Mr Etkin,

        Let’s consider the chronology, essential here.

        1. The so-called “rebels” Mrs Lissitsa supports commonly use the filthy insult invented by Putin’s propaganda, typical of the antisemitic, communist propaganda Mr Putin is heir to.

        2. Kolomoisky, an Ukrainian Jew, wears a T-shirt describing himself as such, in a obviously humouros, provocative gesture.

        3. Mrs Lissitsa condemns – not the authors of the filthy insult, but… Kolomoisky for his “poor taste”.

        Tell me again why I should apologize to Mrs Lissitsa, I must be missing something here.

      • Igor says:

        If she is making fun on the people and country who believe that Wagner had an immense effect upon Hitler. My grandparents remember how Wagner music played in the concentration camp. They do not want visiting Germany, even the country apologized for the genocide . Today she tries to disrespect the memory of the Holocaust servitors.
        YOU do not know what to read and how to learn history, if YOU have no clue about particular issue, problem or situation, may be YOU have to be silent , instead of unveiling her anti-Semite point of view.

  • Gonout Backson says:

    And this cigar is exactly that cigar. You would need more than a wisecrack to prove the contrary.

    As for “racism”, Mr Hitler would not agree. You see, in this context (even if, cleverly, you try to switch to the “scientific” one, hoping no one would notice the manoeuvre), one becomes a “race” when a racist says so.

    BTW: the word “Russian” doesn’t appear anywhere in my post. It’s your addition.

  • Lewis Owens says:

    Dear Mr Edkin,
    I am unsure why I need to apologise to Ms Lisitsa, too. My post (if you have read it) was completely neutral and I did not come down on one side or another out of respect for this forum. But I will say this: Ms Lisitsa has every right to say what she wants. We all have the right to judge her ‘integrity’. I have my own views on this having worked on Shostakovich for the last decade. I feel no need to enter into a debate on it. I am too busy trying to make sure my wife’s family in Donetsk are safe. But let me conclude with this, if I may: Regardless of her online fan base, Ms Lisitsa is a good but not exceptional pianist. That is just simply a fact. Good but not exceptional. I see no need to apologise for that 🙂

  • Gord Bolton says:

    Val Lisitsa and I were born on opposite sides of the world, but it is a small world.

    Both of my parents and their families fought NAZIS during WWII in which some 50 to 60 million people died.

    Val and I share a good deal of dismay by the US decision to empower and use Right Sector Ultra Nationalist groups from Lvov in West Ukraine to Coup the Government, create Chaos and attack the people disenfranchised by the Coup.

    The CIA is on record for maintaining and supporting remnants of the Waffin SS Galician and OUN/UPA just in case the US decides to attack Russia at some point in time.

    The MSM has not done a good job in reporting on events in Ukraine. Those who do speak out are silenced quickly inside Ukraine. The Nazis had support in N. America during WWII and they still do today. Our local Nazis will attack Lisitsa and what she says to discredit her.

    You may learn more about the groups that attack Val Lisitsa and support ethnic cleansing by clicking on the link below. Please notice the addresses where money solicited is sent.