Valentina Lisitsa

Valentina Lisitsa Plays Liszt

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Now that Valentina Lisitsa has proved herself in some of the toughest concerto repertoire and won herself a devoted following, initially via YouTube but eventually through her critically acclaimed recordings on Decca, she can relax. That is, if relaxing is playing a recital of virtuoso solo piano pieces by Franz Liszt, one of the most demanding composers for the instrument and apparently an ideal match for Lisitsa's prodigious talents. She has the right balance of sensitivity and showmanship to make Liszt's music work, first of all as genuine musical expressions that have the power to move, and secondarily as fiery displays of technique that have the power to excite. The program is an agreeable mix of Liszt's ornate transcriptions of five of Franz Schubert's lieder, an arrangement of the Danza sacra e duetto finale from Giuseppe Verdi's Aïda, the seldom heard Rondeau fantastique sur un thème espagnol, "El contrabandista," the Ballade No. 2 in B minor, and the Hungarian Rhapsody No. 12, offering a well-rounded potrait of the Romantic master. In a sense, though, this is equally a portrait of Lisitsa, showing all of her abilities in pieces that run a wide expressive range and demonstrate her physical power and subtlety of interpretation. Perhaps her most compelling performance here is of Erlkönig, which she brings off with such immediacy and intensity, it raises the hairs on the back of the neck. But for sheer fun, the Hungarian Rhapsody is a terrific closer for this versatile artist.

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