Valentina Lisitsa Biography
Valentina Lisitsa (Ukraine, born 11 December 1973) is a Ukrainian-American classical pianist who resides in North Carolina. Lisitsa independently launched the beginnings of her career via social media, without initially signing to a tour promoter or record company. Lisitsa is among the most frequently viewed pianists on YouTube and had about 50 million views on her YouTube videos by 2012.
Lisitsa has received criticism for her opposition to the Ukrainian government and support to pro-Russian separatists since the 2014 pro-Russian unrest in Ukraine and the ensuing armed conflict.
Childhood and Youth
Lisitsa is of Russian and Polish decent and was born in Kiev, Ukraine. She started playing the piano at the age of three and performed her first solo recital at the age of four. Despite her early disposition to music, her dream at that point was become a professional chess player.
Lisitsa attended the Lysenko music school for Gifted Children and, later, Kiev Conservatory, where she and her future husband, Alexei Kuznetsoff, studied under Dr. Ludmilla Tsvierko. It was when Lisitsa met Kuznetsoff that she began to take music more seriously.
At the age of 18, in 1991, Lisitsa together with Kuznetsoff won the first prize in The Murray Dranoff Two Piano Competition in Miami, Florida. That same year, they moved to the United States to further their careers as concert pianists. In 1992 the couple married. Their New York debut was at the Mostly Mozart Festival at Lincoln Center in 1995.
After the death of her manager, and with the thought that she was just another blonde Russian pianist, Lisitsa almost gave up on her career as a concert pianist, and contemplated working as a translator for the CIA, but changed her mind at the last minute, influenced by one of her new fans in England.
At the age of 34, in 2007, Lisitsa posted her first YouTube video in response to an illegal upload of her Chopin etudes online. Her own set of upload for free gained even more online attention than the illegal one and became the most-viewed online set of Chopin etudes on YouTube. Finally, her set of Chopin etudes also reached the number one slot on Amazon's classical video recordings.
Furthering her career, Lisitsa and her husband put their life savings in recording a CD of Rachmaninov concertos with the London Symphony Orchestra in 2010. In the spring of 2012, before her Royal Albert Hall debut, Lisitsa was signed on to Decca Records, who later released her Rachmaninov CD set. By mid-2012 she had nearly 50 million views on her YouTube videos.
Lisitsa has performed in various venues around the world, including Carnegie Hall, Avery Fisher Hall, Benaroya Hall, Musikverein and Royal Albert Hall. She is well known for her online recitals and practicing streams. She has also collaborated with violinist Hilary Hahn for various recital engagements.
Lisitsa has recorded six CDs for Audiofon Records, a Gold CD for CiscoMusic label with cellist DeRosa, a duet recital on VAI label with violinist Ida Haendel, and DVDs of Frédéric Chopin's 24 Etudes and Schubert-Liszt Schwanengesang.
Her recording of the 4 sonatas for violin and piano by composer Charles Ives, made with Hahn, was released in October 2011 on Deutsche Grammophon label. Since 2012, she has released several CDs on Decca label. A recent album comprises a number of works of the composer and pianist Philip Glass.
Commitments, Attitudes and Beliefs
Lisitsa has received criticism for her opposition to the Ukrainian government and support to pro-Russian separatists since the 2014 pro-Russian unrest in Ukraine and the ensuing armed conflict. In April 2015 the Toronto Symphony Orchestra cancelled concerts with Lisitsa citing her "provocative" online remarks on her Twitter account. The orchestra initially did not specify which Tweets or other commentary it believed crossed a line.
Lisitsa said that the orchestra threatened her if she spoke about the cancellation. According to Paul Grod, president of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, Lisitsa had been engaged in a long campaign on social media belittling, insulting and disparaging the people of Ukraine. Grod elaborated that most disturbing were Lisitsa’s allegations that the government of Ukraine was ‘Nazi,’ and stating that the Government of Ukraine was setting up 'filtration camps.' The New Jersey-based Ukrainian Weekly has described her postings as ‘anti-Ukraine hate’ speech. In response she commented that satire and hyperbole are the best literary tools to combat the lies. On 8 April 2015, the CEO of Toronto Symphony, Jeff Melanson provided a PDF document of seven pages listing the most ’offensive’ tweets. Melanson alleged that the document would help people understand why this was not a free speech issue, but rather an issue of someone practicing very intolerant and offensive expression through twitter.
On 22 June 2015, marking the 74th anniversary of the beginning of Operation Barbarossa, Lisitsa gave an open-air concert-requiem in Donetsk city in commemoration to the defenders, and in a speech she expressed support for the people living in Donbass region in their ‘anti-fascist war’. In late August 2015, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines decided to remove Lisitsa's music from the in-flight entertainment program, because of her support for the pro-Russian separatists.
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