Valentina Lisitsa plays Beethoven’s The Piano Sonata No. 14 “Quasi Una Fantasia” Opus 27 No. 2, also known as the “Moonlight Sonata”. Completed in 1801 and dedicated in 1802 to his pupil, Countess Giulietta Guicciardi, it is one of Beethoven’s most popular compositions for the piano.
It is named “The Moonlight Sonata” by poet Ludwig Rellstab who, in 1832, had this inspiration on a moon lit night on the banks of the Lucerna River.
The sonata consists of three movements:
- Adagio sostenuto
- Presto agitato
- Movement 1, Adagio sostenuto The first movement of the Moonlight Sonata is easily the most well known. The famous mysterious, almost haunting melody is dark and whisper like. The form of the first movement is a sort of “condensed” sonata. In other words, it plays the main melody, develops it, and then plays it again very similar to how it was originally played.
- Movement 2, Allegreto The second movement of the Moonlight Sonata is in the form of a scherzo (a comic composition, usually fast-moving and used in the place of a minuet and trio during Beethoven’s time). The key of the second movement is D flat major, which is unrelated to the overall key of c# minor.
- Movement 3, Presto agitato The third movement is completely different from the previous two movements. Its rapid progressions from note to note are invigorating and powerful. The third movement of the Moonlight Sonata is actually marked piano, but Beethoven’s use of sforzandos and fortissimos make the piece actually sound as if the overall dynamic was fortissimo.
It is the weightiest of the three, reflecting an experiment of Beethoven’s (also carried out in the companion sonata, Opus 27, No. 1 and later on in Opus 101) placement of the most important movement of the sonata last. The writing has many fast arpeggios and strongly accented notes, and an effective performance demands lively and skillful playing.
Of the final movement, Charles Rosen has written “it is the most unbridled in its representation of emotion. Even today, two hundred years later, its ferocity is astonishing.”
Valentina Lisitsa (born 1973) is a Ukrainian-born and trained classical pianist who resides in North Carolina. Lisitsa is among the most frequently viewed pianists on YouTube and is often praised as a highly commendable pianist. Lisitsa followed a unique path to success, independently launching the beginnings of her career via social media, without initially signing to a tour promoter or record company.
Lisitsa began playing the piano at the age of three, giving her first solo recital a year later. She gained a place at the Lysenko Music School for Gifted Children and later studied under Ludmilla Tsvierko at the Kiev Conservatory. In 1991 she won the first prize in the Murray Dranoff Two Piano Competition together with Alexei Kuznetsoff, and she now resides in the USA.
Lisitsa has performed at leading international venues such as New York’s Carnegie and Avery Fisher halls and the Vienna Musikverein. In May 2010 she made her debut with the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra playing the Dutch premiere of Rachmaninov’s “New 5th” Concerto, and in August 2011 her debut with the Orquestra Sinfônica Brasileira under Lorin Maazel.
With more than 100 million YouTube views and some 161,000 subscribers to her channel (as of December 2014), Valentina Lisitsa is one of the most watched classical musicians on the internet, using digital innovation to champion classical music and performance. Impressed by her YouTube success, the Royal Albert Hall, in an unprecedented step, opened its doors for Valentina’s London debut on 19 June 2012. That concert, recorded and filmed by Decca Classics, became her first release on the label; it was also Google’s first-ever live HD stream. Further 2012 engagements included concerto appearances in Rotterdam, Munich, Mexico City and Sicily, as well as recitals in Europe, North and South America.
In February 2013 she made her debut in the main auditorium of the Berlin Philharmonie and during the year also gave recitals in Rotterdam, Amsterdam, Copenhagen (Tivoli Festival), Cologne, Bucharest, Palma de Mallorca, Washington, Brisbane and Seoul. As well as returning to the Berlin Philharmonie for a recital in December, Valentina also appeared in New York on 19 October to open the 92nd St. Y series with a programme chosen by the public online. The year’s concerto commitments took her across the USA as well as to Mexico City, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Copenhagen, Ljubljana and the BBC Proms in London.
2014 already includes concerts in Los Angeles, Vienna, Stuttgart, Paris, Milan, Stockholm and Istanbul as well as recitals in St. Paul, Amsterdam, Heidelberg, Stuttgart, Munich, at London’s Wigmore Hall and on tour in Japan.
In 2012 Valentina Lisitsa signed an exclusive agreement with Decca Classics. Her June 2012 Albert Hall recital, immediately available as both CD and DVD for pre-order on the night of the concert, was followed by a 2-CD release of the complete concertos of Rachmaninov and Paganini Rhapsody with the London Symphony Orchestra under Michael Francis. 2013 saw the release of an exciting all-Liszt recital on both CD and LP. In 2014, Decca will release Valentina’s recording of the piano music of Michael Nyman, in celebration of the composer’s 70th birthday. Featuring music from Nyman’s soundtracks to well-loved films such as The Piano and Wonderland, the companion digital release represents the complete published Nyman oeuvre for piano, running to over 110 minutes.