Valentina Lisitsa (Ukrainian: Валентина Лисиця, translit. Valentyna Lysytsya; born 11 December 1973) is a Ukrainian-Americanclassical pianist who resides in North Carolina. Lisitsa is among the most frequently viewed pianists on YouTube. Lisitsa independently launched the beginnings of her career via social media, without initially signing to a tour promoter or record company.
Lisitsa was born in Kiev, Ukraine, in 1973. She started playing the piano at the age of three, performing her first solo recital at the age of four. She is of Russian and Polish descent.
Despite her early disposition to music, her dream at that point was to become a professional chess player. Lisitsa attended the Lysenko music school for Gifted Children and, later, Kiev Conservatory, where she and her future husband, Alexei Kuznetsoff, studied under Dr. Ludmilla Tsvierko. It was when Lisitsa met Kuznetsoff that she began to take music more seriously. In 1991, they won the first prize in The Murray Dranoff Two Piano Competition in Miami, Florida. That same year, they moved to the United States to further their careers as concert pianists. In 1992 the couple married. Their New York debut was at the Mostly Mozart Festival at Lincoln Center in 1995.
After the death of her manager, and with the thought that she was "just another blonde Russian pianist," Lisitsa almost gave up on her career as a concert pianist, and contemplated working as a translator for the CIA, but changed her mind at the last minute, influenced by one of her new fans in England. Lisitsa posted her first YouTube video in 2007, gaining even more online attention after uploading her own set of Chopin etudes online for free (in response to an illegal upload of the same set beforehand). Her set of Chopin etudes reached the number one slot on Amazon's classical video recordings, and became the most-viewed online set of Chopin etudes on YouTube.
Furthering her career, Lisitsa and her husband put their life savings in recording a CD of Rachmaninov concertos with the London Symphony Orchestra in 2010. In the spring of 2012, before her Royal Albert Hall debut, Lisitsa was signed on to Decca Records, who later released her Rachmaninov CD set. By mid-2012 she had nearly 50 million views on her YouTube videos.
Lisitsa has performed in various venues around the world, including Carnegie Hall, Avery Fisher Hall, Benaroya Hall, Musikverein and Royal Albert Hall. She is well known for her online recitals and practicing streams. She has also collaborated with violinist Hilary Hahn for various recital engagements.
Lisitsa has received criticism for her opposition to the Ukrainian government and support to pro-Russian separatists since the 2014 pro-Russian unrest in Ukraine and the ensuing armed conflict. In April 2015 the Toronto Symphony Orchestra cancelled concerts with Lisitsa citing her "provocative" online remarks on her Twitter account; the orchestra initially did not specify which Tweets or other commentary it believed crossed a line.
Lisitsa said that the orchestra threatened her if she spoke about the cancellation. According to Paul Grod, president of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress: "Ms. Lisitsa has been engaged in a long campaign on social media belittling, insulting and disparaging the people of Ukraine as they face direct military aggression at the hands of the Russian Federation". Grod elaborated that "Most disturbing are Ms. Lisitsa's false allegations that the government of Ukraine is 'Nazi,' and stating that the Government of Ukraine is setting up 'filtration camps.'" The New Jersey-based Ukrainian Weekly has described her postings as "anti-Ukraine hate speech." In response she commented that "satire and hyperbole are the best literary tools to combat the lies". On April 8, 2015, the CEO of Toronto Symphony, Jeff Melanson provided a PDF document of seven pages listing the most "offensive" tweets. Melanson alleged that the document "would help people understand why we made this decision, and understand as well how this is not a free speech issue, but rather an issue of someone practicing very intolerant and offensive expression through twitter."
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