On evidence here, Lisitsa has formidable technical chops, with playing distinguished by quick tempos that hew close to Rachmaninov's own, exceptional clarity of texture, and razor-sharp rhythm and attacks (along with a penchant for full-bodied, Horowitz-style chords). These qualities come forth most strongly in Concerto No. 3, where the pianist's accuracy and detail at such high speeds [impresses] . . . in No. 4 Lisitsa's focus and drive does lend shape and clarity, making the music sound less discursive than usual. Concerto No. 2 comes off best, as Lisitsa exhibits genuine feeling and tenderness in the enchanting Andante second movement. Conductor Michael Francis at last makes his presence known in this work, pointing up Rachmaninov's gorgeous orchestral colors and dynamic shadings.
. . . a warm, engaging and admirable disc of Liszt's florid, self-indulgent transcriptions. The Schubert song treatments are lovely . . . She does have a good vision . . . for this music. Bravo to her for "El contrabandista" . . . and for "Erlkoenig" . . .
Anyone who heard pianist Valentina Lisitsa . . . knew right away she wasn't just a passing YouTube wonder, but an artist deserving a place at the head table of the world's most interesting classical soloists. The latest keepsake of her highly individual, overtly expressive approach to the piano is [this new disc] . . . Lisitsa's selection of pieces is as interesting as her interpretations . . . The journey drags us from the drawing room to the concert stage and then back again as well as taking us from introspection to extravagant shows of emotion -- and back again, as well. Lisitsa's interpretive contribution impresses on many levels: The first, the most obvious, is her unbelievably fluid technique, which doesn't recognize any obstacles; the second is in an absolute clarity in teasing out every musically important idea in each score; the third is making the piano sing seductively from beginning to end. This is not just about sparkle and cascading runs and crashing chords. This is about gorgeous [music] . . . [Verdi/Liszt & Schubert/Liszt]: They capture everything that makes the original music so captivating, including the singing, while enhancing it with colours and textures that take advantage of everything a modern concert-grand piano has to offer.
The transcription of "Des Mädchens Klage" conveys a tragic, lyrical power -- attend to Lisitsa's prowess in the bass line -- of any of his "Liebesträume". The emotional as well as digital abysses of "Der Erlkönig" hardly need review: Lisitsa takes it a rapid tempo, capturing the fury of the storms natural and psychical . . . A quiet stasis ensues in "The Miller and the Brook," a kind of enchanted occasionally scintillating nocturne illuminated by Lisitsa's affecting parlando. Lastly, the ubiquitous Hungarian Rhapsody No. 12, with its eight motifs of tragic and whimsical affects, wrapped by rhetorical fervor. Lisitsa certainly produces cimbalom and music-box effects in the course of the music's luxurious development, alternately declamatory and soaring in its evocations.
One could hardly guess . . . [that Lisitsa] can make a piano roar and thunder in the way she does in Liszt's B minor Ballade . . . [nobody] matches the enormous wave of sound produced by Lisitsa . . . Confirmation of Lisitsa's iron-clad technique comes in the ferociously difficult and rarely recorded "El contrabandista" . . . as a virtuoso showpiece, designed to whip an audience into a frenzy it is a complete success. Lisitsa is able to exploit its superficial dazzle to the full . . . the remaining items are five Schubert song transcriptions -- their delicate passagework skilfully executed -- and lastly the "Hungarian Rhapsody" No 12, scintillating and idiosyncratic in equal measure . . .
. . . in the "Hungarian Rhapsody" No. 12, besides her power and remarkable accuracy, [Lisitsa] conjures a Lisztian sparkle and crystalline clarity that sound exactly right. In the transcriptions she finds beautiful colours and line (you won't hear Schubert's "Der Müller und der Bach" played with more poignancy) . . . her instinct for searching out wide musical spaces suits the B minor Ballade impressively . . .
Valentina Lisitsa has a reputation as an overwhelming pianist -- and for good reason . . . Certainly, no one looking for white-knuckle virtuosity will be disappointed by this album: by the bite of the high-intensity "Erlkönig", by the crushing bass sonority in the Ballade, by the dazzling finger work and brilliant rhythmic definition in the rarely heard "El Contrabandista". But this is far from empty technical display. Even in a strenuous work like the Ballade, Lisitsa manages to balance the volcanic eruptions against moments of gossamer beauty; even when faced with the criminal demands of "El Contrabandista", she manages to convey an impish lightness of spirit; and throughout the recital, but especially in the transcriptions of the Schubert songs, she reminds us of her gorgeous tone, sumptuous legato, and superb responsiveness to subtleties of mood . . . Listen, for instance, to the seductive curl she gives the "orientalisms" in the Verdi transcription, or to the subtle coloration with which she brings out the dark anxieties behind "Gute Nacht" . . . Balances are keenly judged, so that even the densest passages don't clog; and in part because of her attention to harmonic weight, in part because of her expert rubato, the music has a consistent sense of progress -- a soaring momentum that never degenerates into impatience . . . but she's never unfeeling or bombastic, and the sheer joy of the music-making is almost palpable. In sum, a superior Liszt recital . . . Strongly recommended.
. . . hers is always real caution-to-the-winds music-making of flawless technique and great imagination . . . [Hungarian Rhapsody no. 12]: there's a quality to her virtuosity that smacks not of egotism but oft he need to push herself just because she can. I've rarely heard anyone make the keyboard explode with the ferocity and power of this woman, yet never does it sound like mere banging or showing off -- instead, as if she's testing the limits of self, of instrument, and of the music. But it's not all about strength and loudness either -- she's capable of a poet's intimacy with a real lyric impulse, as the Ballade readily demonstrates . . . There is no pianist whose next recording I anticipate more eagerly than Lisitsa's.
. . . played very well -- Lisitsa has splendid technique . . .