Friday, May 15, 2015

Valentina Lisitsa in Singapore

Not one who is prone to subtle quiet cadences, Ukraine-born Valentina Lisitsa was as fiery on stage as her recent tweets, especially in her defense of Russia's foreign policies and military overtures. (Discussions here, here, here and here.) She last played in Singapore for Piano Festival 2007 with a program entirely of Liszt. Two nights ago at Esplanade Concert Hall, she opted for a long and grueling three-hour solo program. So while I was very distracted by her shiny strappy heels and frilly hem of the skirt, she gave the piano all her attention.

She played Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 17 in D minor, Op. 31, No. 2 or otherwise known as 'The Tempest', Bach-Busoni BWV 1004 Chaconne in D MinorLiszt's Piano Sonata in B Minor and all of Chopin's Études. 24. All. Stifled grins through her Beethoven and Chopin. The speed was astounding and sounded like she was doing scales. :P Like what my piano teacher used to say, "Stop rushing like a bullet train." Then there were three Liszt encores which included Hungarian Rhapsody No. 12 and La Campanella. Giggled at the third piece that was Totentanz for solo piano. Dance of the Dead, from Gregorian chant Dies Irae. Very much her. She has probably concluded that Liszt's works are representative of her playing style. It was like, she should have just played Liszt totally tonight too, and not bother with other composers since she wasn't going to play them the way audiences thought she would. It was fine, really. I thought it quite rude that many people were walking out of the already-sparse concert hall even before the encore. It was a rather strange mix of audience. It was odd for the organizers to hold this on the opening night of English National Ballet's 'Le Corsaire' and Singapore Fashion Week. We don't have such a big population/audience threshold to go around all these events.

Valentina Lisitsa is quite the performer lah. Not solemn standoffish, but one who takes the piano out to the streets, on the subway cars and train stations. While she's technically proficient as a professional is, she makes rather unorthodox interpretations — the types of expressions that piano teachers tell you not to do. She's engaging and brings in the crowd to her performances. So I don't know what that says about the audience at this Singapore concert, going by the attendance numbers. She's very much the Youtube star and social media darling who narrows the distance between stereotypes of classical music and the everyman.

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