Ukrainian-born pianist hopes internet success translates to sales
In an interesting, but poorly titled article, the Wall Street Journal tells a story of talent and determination. Â Said title, The Justin Bieber of Classical Piano, makes one think of a performer dependent upon packaging and preteens to sell recordings. Â In reality, it’s a story of a well-trained musician struggling to be heard above the din of the internet.
Pianist Valentina Lisitsa came to the United States at the age of 19-years-old, most likely expecting that this would be the best point from which to launch her career. Â Lisitsa and Alexei Kuznetsoff, to whom she would soon be married, won a two-piano competition in Miami. Â
That was followed by her New York debut at the Mostly Mozart Festival at Lincoln Center in 1995. Â A series of events followed which soon had her questioning her desire to have a performance career. Â When her manager died, she began to look at herself as, in her words, “just another blonde Russian pianist.”
Valentina Lisitsa decided to get a government job in Washington D.C. Â During the interview, however, she was talked out of it by a telephone operator at the center where she was putting in her application.
With the help of her husband, she self-produced a DVD of 24 Chopin Preludes, which she offered on Amazon, but discovered that people kept taking the clips and posting them on You Tube. Â At that point she made the “crazy decision” to post all of them on her own YouTube channel. Â All of a sudden, sales of her DVD shot up. Â A classical music internet star was born.
You can watch her practice on a live streaming video and see clips of her preparing for concerts. Â Now, her internet fame has resulted in a performance at Albert Hall in London. Â The sold-out performance was streamed live on You Tube to “viewing numbers more typical of rock or pop events.” Â
Her biggest risk, however, has been her latest recording. Â She began trying to raise nearly $300,000, which included mortgaging her home, in order to hire the London Symphony and begin recording the Rachmaninoff Piano Concertos.
Now, Decca has decided to release Lisitsa’s Rachmaninoff recording. Â As you can imagine, social media is playing a big role in the promotion. Â A Twitter campaign #HereComesRachÂ is in full swing.Â A spokesman for the company says it’s a bit of a gamble, since so much of her music is available on You Tube, but they don’t want to restrict the connection with her fans, which is the very reason they even have a recording to release.
Time will tell whether the melding of the online world with record sales will work. Â In the meantime, music lovers the world over continue to enjoy Lisitsa’s recordings and her chutzpah.
Read more: The Justin Bieber of Classical Piano (Wall Street Journal)