Rachmaninov: The Piano Concertos; Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini

Rachmaninov: The Piano Concertos; Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini

by Valentina LisitsaValentina Lisitsa


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Classical music has by and large been late to the online party, but Ukrainian-born pianist Valentina Lisitsa has had what may become seen as an archetypical classical career for the Internet age. Emigrating from Ukraine to the U.S., and possessed of a formidable technique built up since age three, she found herself in competition with a host of other above-average pianists from the former East Bloc, and her career went nowhere. She happened to try out YouTube just as that medium was exploding, and her steely speed hit a sweet spot, racking up hit counts numbering in the tens of millions. Even that did not immediately attract recording companies, but she and her husband sunk $250,000 of their own money into a series of Rachmaninov recordings with the London Symphony Orchestra, heard here, and some associated concerts. Mob-level crowds at those concerts finally did the trick, and the four Rachmaninov concertos plus the "Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Op. 43," were released on Decca in 2013, four years after they were recorded. They're not going to displace Vladmir Ashkenazy from the standard slot for these concertos, but Lisitsa's assertive, roughly flamboyant virtuosity in live performance comes through reasonably well on recordings, and many things here are worth the time of those who enjoy the charismatic star pianists of an older day. Probably the best are the "Piano Concerto No. 1 in F sharp minor, Op. 1," and the murderously difficult "Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Op. 43," where Lisitsa has a rare quality of total domination of the material. In the middle two concertos there are subtler readings, and it is to be assumed that some of the people who have come to this recording from YouTube will discover them. But nowhere is the music less than full of rocking, rolling, pounding excitement.

Product Details

Release Date: 03/12/2013
Label: Decca
UPC: 0028947848905
catalogNumber: 001811702


  1. Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini (Introduction and 24 Variations), for piano & orchestra in A minor, Op. 43
  2. Piano Concerto No. 4 in G minor, Op. 40
  3. Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, Op. 18
  4. Piano Concerto No. 3 in D minor, Op. 30
  5. Piano Concerto No. 1 in F sharp minor, Op. 1

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