Colin Eatock in Wolfgangs Tonic:
There are many pianists, but there is only one Valentina Lisitsa. She’s classical music’s first “YouTube sensation,” who famously became famous by posting clips of her performances on the popular video-sharing website. Since 2007 the 41-year-old musician with flowing blonde hair has posted about 200 clips online, receiving about 80 million views worldwide. Today, she has an international career and a recording contract with the Decca label.
In retrospect, it almost sounds easy – all she needed was a piano, a camera, a microphone, and some technical know-how. But scratch below the surface, and it’s clear that this particular kind of success could only have been achieved by a particular kind of artist. Lisitsa has always refused to play by the rules of the classical music industry, or to accept the decisions of its gate-keepers. She’s determined, opinionated, street-smart and not afraid of a fight. (And she certainly found herself in the midst of a fight in Toronto, in April. We’ll get to “Lisitsa vs. the Toronto Symphony Orchestra” a little farther down.)
She proudly acknowledges her outsider status in the music business. “Yes, definitely yes!” she declares, in her thick East European accent. “I am an outsider. The music establishment looks at me that way. Sometimes critics may something like, ‘For a YouTube pianist, she’s not so bad.’ I try to take it in stride, but I know where I stand.”