Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Valentina Lisitsa: Revolutionary Pianist and Superhuman

More likely than not, anyone who has any sort of passion for music has his or her own favorite artists. As my taste in music, I would like to think, is not limited to a single genre, in the realm of classical music I do in fact have a favorite artist of today's world: Valentina Lisitsa. Born in Kiev, Ukraine, this Russian pianist used YouTube as a platform to offer her passion and talent to those who wanted to watch and listen. 

It should be recognized that she did dedicate her studies to music. Lisitsa was granted admission into the Lysenko Music School for Gifted Children and later studied under Ludmilla Tsvierko at the Kiev Conservatory. However, the classical music world is not one of major popularity in relation to the new, hip music trends. Finding success in the classical music business became more difficult with the industry transforming these artists into commodities of its market. The struggle for pianists to find work led Lisitsa to usually only perform as a substitute for others on their tours. 

She took initiative with her big creative move, and I would add, career launching step, that took place in a world where almost anything is possible: the Internet. 

"There was a transition of me as musician to me as entrepreneur, which they don’t teach you in music school.”

I sincerely love YouTube for its ability to, ever so simply, allow individuals to showcase their talent throughout the world. For that, I must acknowledge Chad HurleySteve Chen, and Jawed Karim, the founders of YouTube.

This beautiful technological mechanism was granted another magical video. Lisitsa posted Rachmaninoff’s Etude Op. 39 No. 6, or “Little Red Riding Hood". The immaculate precision and thunderous sound of her key strokes made this video viral.

She exemplifies the components of intellectual skill as defined by Sternberg in his Investment Theory of Creativity. She recognized her skill, found means of promoting herself, and gained success through discovering the manner in which to convey her talent to others. 

Lupart and Sternberg address the importance of the atmosphere in which a creative person acts within. An ideal environment would be supportive and rewarding. Lisitsa found YouTube to provide her with such qualities, at least from the over 130,000 followers subscribed to her channel.  

 The Washington Post has acknowledged her dominance in the classical music world as she has more subscribers than renowned musicians like Yo-yo Ma. This is where I do believe the creative element comes in to play. Valentina Lisitsa has found a way to connect with the people of her times. For her, the mesmerizing music that her finger movements create is the reason people want to watch her videos.

“I think maybe people are very attached to the simple style,” she says. “I’m not dressing up for the videos. I’m not about fashion and don’t care about impressing people with elaborate productions.

I was lucky enough to personally witness the playfulness and discipline of her nature this past week at the Ordway Music Theater in Minnesota as she performed for fans as overtly fascinated with her artistry as I am. Evidently, her repertoire of pieces from Bach, Beethoven, and Liszt (to only name a few) proves the discipline and dedication she carries in order to accomplish such a feat.  Her playfulness comes out through her relationship with the audience. As any fortunate attendee of a piano performance can relate, there are times when one may not be sure when it is appropriate to clap. As Lisitsa had paused to retain her composure for the next  movement in a Beethoven Sonata, claps arose (despite the "inappropriate" timing). Rather than scrutinize the crowd for its actions, she continued playing and the during the next breaks in her pieces, the lovely comedian turned to the crowd with a playful expression to let us know whether or not to clap.

It is difficult to not validate the creative aspect of Valentina's personality and mind. She had to conquer the struggles that follow a multitude of aspiring professional pianists, the threat of evolving music trends in the business of such an industry, and find a way to cultivate her own image to the world of classical music. Thought she may not have provided for a paradigm shift in the classical music world, she has indeed made an impact in the way it affects its listeners.

Not only do I thank her for her contributions but also to the way her music sounds to my ears. Her piano playing has proved to me the possibility for an individual to transcend the world of worries and anxiety through the help of  music so eloquently performed as Valentina Lisitsa has and hopefully will continue to do so. 


  1. I think it's amazing that this woman was able to gain recognition through youtube! But when I watched the video, I was not surprised. She is so intense when she plays her music! Her facial expressions seem like she's concentrating on nothing else at all while she performs. While she may not have shifted a paradigm, she certainly has graced it. It's impressive that she has more followers than Yo-yo Ma which emphasizes the point made about that kind of environment really aiding the creative person in their work. She has some amazing determination, skill, and intelligence to literally have made herself in the world of classical music. She came up through the internet, which I have never heard of before.

  2. I believe that Lisitsa will be the first in a new era of classical musicians. Because classical musicians are not as in demand as they once were, it is harder to break onto the scene, as you said. Her use of modern technology to create a fan base is the first case I have heard of someone successfully using 21st century tools to begin a career in classical music. I also think that her location is a testament to the power of the Internet. Even just fifteen or twenty years ago, it would be highly unlikely for the music of a relatively unknown Ukrainian pianist to make its way to the ears of college students in America. In this way, I think that Lisitsa could potentially be the start of a new era of classical musicians. This would, indeed be a paradigm shift. However, her lasting impact is hard to gauge right now. If, in the future, more classical music stars make it to the stage in this way, it is safe to say that Lisitsa was one of the pioneers.


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