The Valentina Lisitsa phenomenon: Some things that glitter on YouTube may actually be gold

YouTube phenom Valentina Lisitsa performs live on YouTube at 3 p.m. Eastern.

Ukrainian-born pianist Valentina Lisitsa is here to prove that the phenomenon of YouTube celebrity does not have to be a case of social media puffery.

The classically trained 42-year-old American resident has so far spent her adult life busily toiling among the middle rank of professional pianists. But after turning to social media for help in boosting her career, she has now been seen in more than 40 million YouTube visits.

The big labels noticed. So, less than a month after signing a contract with Decca, Lisitsa celebrates the union with a live recording at what is likely to be a sold-out concert at the 6,000-seat Royal Albert Hall in London.

YouTube is streaming the concert live on Lisitsa’s YouTube channel at 8 p.m. GMT — that’s 3 p.m. Eastern.

For anyone leery of talents seemingly discovered overnight on the Web, this pianist is a revelation. That she has technique to burn is not in question. What makes her worth paying attention to is musicality. There appears to be plenty of that.

Lisitsa may be perfect rebuttal to skeptics. YouTube does have potential to bring even serious artistry to the fore, if the artist has the iron will to do it right.

Amidst the hype, we should also not forget that here is someone who has been working hard, daily at her craft for about three decades. This is not a magical stroke of overnight success, but a classic case of a prepared, determined artist lucky enough to have found herself in the right place at the right time, just like a well-prepared young conductor being suddenly called onto a storied podium when a great maestro takes sick.

This pianist has even performed and recorded with violinist Hilary Hahn, hardly an obscure soloist.

Here are but a couple of samples of Lisitsa’s lovely work at the piano, first some light keystrokes of a Rachmaninov Prelude, followed by Franz Liszt’s transcription of Schubert’s Erlkönig:

John Terauds


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