on 28 October 2012
Ukrainian-born YouTube diva Valentina Lisitsa demonstrates in this, the first release of her digital "Rachmaninoff Project", that she has the character, authority and technique to take her place as a major talent among today's concert pianists.
This is a fresh, vibrant Rachmaninoff with an elegant, flexible line which sings in long rubato phrases where the piano seems to float miraculously over the beat without ever taking liberties with it. The pulsating, brisk tempo of the opening provides an energy that is echoed throughout, driving the music forward rather than pulling it back: grand without being paralysed by its own grandeur.
The second movement shows the LSO strings playing with exceptional sweetness in their exchange of the long singing theme with Lisitsa's tender, lyrical phrasing. The cadenza and the magical coda are played with great clarity and moving sentiment.
This great clarity, the product of a cast-iron technique and a functioning musical brain, is especially evident in the third movement with its virtuoso runs and almost continually busy, chattering piano accompaniment. This is glittering, at times icy playing, an exciting (and necessary) contrast to the almost excessive romanticism of the big tunes. The finale breaks through like a river in flood - all the glitter swept away in the passionate, headlong rush.
The LSO under the young conductor Michael Francis - not long ago, a double bass player with the same orchestra - are clearly in tune with Lisitsa's vision of the concerto, based, she says, on Rachmaninoff's own playing which she sees as more aristocratic and refined than the thunderously portentous perfomances this repertoire sometimes attracts. There is an excellent rapport with the orchestra, and you'd think they had been performing with Lisitsa for years rather than meeting for the first time in the studio.
This is an absolute steal at the price, for a digital recording. Can't wait to hear what she does with the other, even more musically demanding, concertos in the "project".
I first heard, and fell in love with, this piece of music when I was less than 5 years old and, as I am nearly 70 now, I have heard many versions. Since the advent of Cds I have been trying to find a version that had the sparkle and sheer exuberance of the version I grew up with (that no longer being available).I listened to a lot of versions on Amazon and found most of them sounded to me like funeral dirges compared to my memories of the piece.
Finally,today, I found this version whilst looking for MP3s on the Kindle Fire (on which it sounds wonderful incidentally). AT LAST! - someone who plays with a truly assured touch without being ponderous and heavy handed. This has to be Rachmaninov at its' very best - by the end it leaves you breathless and elated.
on 8 November 2012
It's so easy for this great warhorse of a concerto to fade into hackneyed musical wallpaper for jaded ears, but Valentina Lisitsa's delightful and convincing performance really refreshes one's passion for it. Rachmaninov loyalists will want to add this version to their collections. For those with any hesitation, the current price of the MP3 download makes it an outright steal.
Valentina recently gave a live performance of Rach 3, and has all sorts of YouTube clips of the others, so it's just possible (please!) that in the fullness of time she and Decca will be treating us to the 'full five' (Concertos #1- #4 plus Warenberg's piano adaptation of the Second Symphony). You go girl!
on 23 October 2012
I am a very excited and elated customer indeed. I was blessed by watching Valentina record this as part of her Rachmaninov Project at the Abbey Road Studio with the LSO, conductor Michael Francis, producer Michael Fine. The LSO applauded Valentina and this recording demonstrates why. I once bought Richter's prize winning recording of this great concerto in the 1970s and have waited a long, long time to witness then to purchase such an authentic, new and fresh rendering of this great composition. Congratulations Valentina for doing it such justice and thanks also to Valentina's collaborators for doing her justice as well and giving her fans what they most want - Valentina recordings.