Valentina Lisitsa, time and time again, achieves an extraordinary beauty of line whilst still having all the technique to rise to the technical challenges of the program while still maintaining that beauty of line. In my opinion this is the key feature that makes her playing style special. Instead I will try to explain what I feel are key considerations when describing her approach to the piano and to the music she plays.
Throughout her playing the fingerwork remains fluid with an almost limpid wrist action under all pressure. This gives her playing a liquidity that is very marked. The more dramatic moments retain this approach and all sense of barnstorming, percussiveness or even glitter is avoided. Instead what we hear is a sensation of joy with bouncing rhythm emphasising a strong dance element. Significantly her instrument of choice is the more rounded tonal palette of the Bosendorfer piano instead of the more powerful Steinway so beloved of the majority of performers and venues. This works very well with her total approach.
The recital is delivered with minimal interruption for applause and composers merge seamlessly into each other. The opening Mozart Fantasia leads straight into 3 pieces by Liszt followed by Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata. The fast last movement of this is lightly played but with consummate technique. The 5 Rachmaninov pieces are played with the sort of inner feeling that only Russians seem to have for this music. The final prelude in g minor is fleet and exhilarating.
The 4 Scriabin items are played with a sensitivity that I found to be unusually illuminating and these flow seamlessly into a set of 3 Chopin Nocturnes making a natural and clear link apparent between the two composers. The recital concludes with a powerful and highly evocative performance of Liszt's Totentanz, his Ave Maria arrangement and finally an effortlessly joyful account of his La Campanella.
Throughout the audience attends spellbound with minimal breaks for applause which Valentina sits through patiently with bowed head and without turning to face her audience. The impression is that of a quiet and shy person so different to so many other performers. Only at the very end does she face them and then she shows real and relaxed pleasure.
There is one bonus in the form of a totally engaging opening speech followed by a performance of Liszt's 12th Hungarian Rhapsody which she describes as a sort of overture to the start of the real concert.
Decca have provided a recording which for me establishes a new benchmark with an extraordinarily clear and full range of colour imaging coupled with remarkably truthful piano sound presented in DTD 5.1 and stereo.
This is both an outstanding and a unique experience as a disc and as such, in my opinion, defies normal points of comparison and still demands a full 5 star rating. Valentina Lisitsa and Decca have produced a real winner here!
Some dialogue from the comments section that may offer further help:
Thank you for your excellent review. I hope she will bring out many more CDs so I can listen on a high-end hi-fi instead of my reasonably good computer speakers on YouTube (on which of course she is a prolific performer). By the way John Springer, I think she is in a different league to Lang Lang and even equals Horowitz in some of her interpretations. I will buy this DVD immediately and hope my speakers do it justice.