Lisitsa, Zhang, LSO - Barbican, review: Showy work beats up an admirable storm

Zhang and Lisitsa seem made for each other

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The Independent Culture

Once upon a time the Ukrainian pianist Valentina Lisitsa was known as a purveyor of recherché nineteenth-century curiosities.

Then she discovered the power of YouTube, and the big labels discovered the appeal of her theatrically fractured English, with the result that she became a crowd-pleasing fixture on the Yellow Lounge roster.

Last year she returned to the Wigmore to prove she could still play decent Beethoven, and now at the Barbican – her blonde mane set off by a flame-coloured ball-dress - she has shown what she can do with high-octane Prokofiev.

She brought charm to the expansive opening of his Piano Concerto No 2 in G minor, letting the undulating figurations unfold gracefully, and as the chords thickened and the notes piled up she seemed totally at ease, letting rip in the cadenza as the composer himself might have done.

The rapid octave runs in the second movement, the comically strutting melody of the third, and the tempestuous finale all sounded exhilaratingly authentic.

This unashamedly showy work may be a mere parade of effects, but with live-wire direction from the Chinese conductor Xian Zhang, Lisitsa and the London Symphony Orchestra beat up an admirable storm. Zhang and Lisitsa seem made for each other.

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