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Valentina Lisitsa recital at St Mary's Perivale - 5 October 2011


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#1 Edwardo

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Posted 06 October 2011 - 11:26

Valentina Lisitsa recital at St Mary's Perivale - 5 October 2011.

I'm a huge fan of Valentina Lisitsa, and I discovered from her Twitter feed that she was due to give a recital in London on 5 October. I managed to track it down to St Mary's Perivale - a somewhat unlikely venue. I emailed the organiser asking what time I needed to arrive in order to be sure of a seat, and he wasn't sure, given that they don't normally host artists who have 32 million hits on YouTube.

In the end I arrived in very good time (around 5 pm) - the church (12thC, apparently the oldest building in Ealing) almost directly across the A40 from the Hoover Building. I was the first in the queue (yay!) so I sat on a bench by the church door and began reading my book. About ten minutes later a figure stuck his head round the corner and asked if I was there for the concert. "Yes", I said, rightly deducing that this was Dr Hugh Mather, the organiser. "You must be the chap from Cheltenham." He disappeared momentarily, only to return with Valentina Lisitsa herself and her luggage (she'd just come from Paris on the Eurostar) and bunch of other people.

I've met lots of famous people in my life, and I've never really been dumbstruck before - well, until now. It was all I could do to burble in VL's general direction "I recognise you from YouTube" which strikes me, in retrospect, as not particularly polite. She and her crew went into the church and I resumed reading my book.

A minute or so later I heard the piano being played. I poked my head round the door to watch, and gradually entered the room and sat down. Dr Mather came up and asked me where I'd like to sit for the concert - I pointed to a seat about five feet from VL's left hand. He promptly went and put a "RESERVED" sticker on it.

For about an hour I sat there while she went through her pieces - much slower than I would have expected, occasionally going over the same bar repeatedly. She'd break off in the middle to take a text, or to answer one of Dr Mather's questions. They experimented with the position of the piano. I mentioned that in one particular position there was an unpleasant buzz and eventually they found a happy medium.

Across to the pub for a baguette and a reviving drink, and then back to the church for the concert. It held only 100 people, and by the time she took the stage it was standing room only.

The concert passed, for me, in a state of fizzing emotions - for at least half of it I was covered in goose pimples. None of the films of her on YouTube does justice to the extremes of tenderness and unspeakable ferocity with which she approaches playing the piano. There were times when it was almost literally impossible to believe that one was listening to a single human being with ten fingers. She played only Liszt and, of course, Liszt is a very suitable composer for VL - fiendishly difficult, highly pianistic, highly romantic and, for his time, highly experimental. The final piece, "Totentanz" was almost overwhelming - I swear I held my breath for most of it.

6 Schubert-Liszt transcriptions
Gute Nacht
Das Madchens Klage
Erlkonig
(Awesome - simply awesome)
Doppelganger
Der Muller und der Bach
Standchen


Hungarian Rhapsody no 12 in C# minor
Ballade no 2 in B minor
Transcription of La danza sacra e duetto finale - from Aida (Verdi)
Totentanz

2 encores
Schubert-Liszt "Ave Maria"
Rondeau fantastique sur le th?me "Il contrabandista"

The second of the two encores I'd never heard before which was a great treat. Afterwards we all had a glass of wine (the cost of the concert was ?10 a ticket including a glass of wine - her normal performance fee would be somewhere north of the ?1,000 I imagine the concert raised. I believe she agreed to this recital because she'd "borrowed" the church to rehearse in last year while she was recording the Rachmaninov concerti in London) and while we drank our wine, VL drank hers and chatted to the audience. I shook her hand and thanked her and she thanked me, in her fruity Russian accent, for coming.

The journey home passed in a flash. Snatches of the concert came back to me - the way, at times of thunderous and impossible octave runs, she would shift position on the stool the better to attack the poor keyboard; the way she sat, waiting to start, staring into space; the delicacy of her movement during the quiet passages; her shy and self-deprecating smile when she took a bow.

There was nothing of the prima donna about her. The piano she was playing on, for example - by normal standards it was a fine grand piano, by the standards of the pianos she either owns or plays on in concert it was tiny and of inferior sound - didn't faze her a bit. The creaking piano stool, the rather ad hoc dressing room (a small room in the belfry, I rather think), her openness to the same old questions (the first one I heard her asked was "which of the pieces was the most technically difficult?", a question she must be asked every time she plays), underlines the general view, endorsed by Dr Mather, that she's a really, really nice "girl".

Do you get the impression I had a good time?

Plus, I managed to buy her "Black And Pink" DVD - no longer available. When she overheard me asking if there was a copy, she remarked "I hope not. I told Alexei not to make any more. I never want to see that dress again". Luckily I'm watching with my eyes closed.
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#2 denmark77

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Posted 06 October 2011 - 11:47

Someone's smitten... blush.gif

I think it's fair to say, if you are truly able to appreciate a person's gifts (as you clearly are), then to experience them in the flesh at close hand is a rare treat indeed. So it's evident that VL's greatness is not wasted on you ...
ph34r.gif
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#3 Guest: Mad Tom_*

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Posted 06 October 2011 - 13:44

Hi Edwardo.

You write extremely well. Perhaps a career as a music critic is your true calling.

It is always special to hear a World class artist playing to a small audience in a modest venue. I am reminded of Vitaly Pisarenko's fantastic recital in Utrecht a couple of days after winning the Liszt competition in a lovely Lutheran Chapel that held not many more than 100 listeners (most of whom were themselves acomplished pianists).

It is good to hear that the divine Valentina is a modest and lovely person, and not an overbearing Prima Donna with a giant ego ... but I do suspect that you are just a little bit in love with her blush.gif wub.gif

Thanks for sharing your experience.
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#4 Edwardo

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Posted 06 October 2011 - 14:01

QUOTE(Mad Tom @ Oct 6 2011, 02:44 PM) View Post

Hi Edwardo.

You write extremely well. Perhaps a career as a music critic is your true calling.

It is always special to hear a World class artist playing to a small audience in a modest venue. I am reminded of Vitaly Pisarenko's fantastic recital in Utrecht a couple of days after winning the Liszt competition in a lovely Lutheran Chapel that held not many more than 100 listeners (most of whom were themselves acomplished pianists).

It is good to hear that the divine Valentina is a modest and lovely person, and not an overbearing Prima Donna with a giant ego ... but I do suspect that you are just a little bit in love with her blush.gif wub.gif

Thanks for sharing your experience.


Hi Tom

Thank you for your kind words. I'm certainly a better critic than I am a pianist!

Yes, I am a tiny bit smitten, but I also stand by my assessment; I've seen great pianists in similar surroundings (I saw both John Ogdon and John Lill in very small salon recitals years ago) and the atmosphere that Valentina generated was, for me, quite unprecedented. Of course, she was playing a great deal of highly charged music, but boy! did she make it highly-charged!

Best

Edward
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#5 BerkshireMum

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Posted 06 October 2011 - 14:23

Thank you for sharing this, Edwardo. It was lovely to feel your excitement and enthusiasm shooting out of the screen, and it's great to hear what a fantastic time you had. I think you made us all feel a bit jealous! biggrin.gif
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#6 Martin.Walters

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Posted 06 October 2011 - 21:13

To Right! Ive watched Valentina play on youtube & I have always thought she reminds me of Vladimir Horowitz in her playing style (somehow) and I feel the music far more than I do with Lang Lang.

As I was sat here upon my bed with the fairly dim light, which reflected dark shadows of the monitor for which I was gazing, I read your words of how you love VL (and her playing). I truly feel you could be her man, following her around venues with your note pad and golden rimmed parker pen, writing a colourful biography on her.
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#7 wurlitzer

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Posted 16 October 2011 - 10:30

Really disappointed I didn't know about this, although it would've been a very long way for me to travel all the way from Durham! Worth it to see Lisitsa play though!
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#8 PianissiMole

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Posted 19 October 2011 - 09:59

agree.gif
QUOTE(BerkshireMum @ Oct 6 2011, 03:23 PM) View Post

Thank you for sharing this, Edwardo. It was lovely to feel your excitement and enthusiasm shooting out of the screen, and it's great to hear what a fantastic time you had. I think you made us all feel a bit jealous! biggrin.gif

agree.gif Absolutely! searches for :envy: emoticon biggrin.gif
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