At the Wigmore Hall in 2007, the Ukrainian pianist Valentina Lisitsa delivered a dazzling recital of Beethoven and Liszt. The rest is history: Yellow Lounge stardom, YouTube fame through 70 million clicks, and, this month, a (rather depressing) Cd of Nyman piano arrangements.
So what was she doing back at the Wigmore? Could she still play? This live-broadcast concert – of Beethoven’s ‘Tempest’ sonata and Liszt’s Herculean B minor sonata – would sort her out.
She gave the first movement of the ‘Tempest’ a clean and spacious grandeur, though - by over-dramatizing its recitative passages – she blurred what should have been a dramatic contrast between it and the Adagio which followed. In the Allegretto, however, silky grace turned into intermittent thunder before evaporating mischievously into the ether.
Liszt’s roller-coaster started as majestically as one could wish, and in no time she was delivering on the promise she had made in last week’s Music Matters: negotiating the notoriously difficult passage-work at extraordinary speed, and with a volcanically huge sound. Yet the craggy contours of this intricate piece were finely delineated, as were its serene plateaux of lyricism. After going off air she slipped into night-club mode, and gave us two full-blooded Liszt and Chopin encores. Yes, she can still play.