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Ghost Canyon

Title - 1908 - Ravel & Rachmaninoff
Artist - Valentina Lisitsa

For those unaware, Naïve Classiques has announced the release of two new albums from pianist Valentina Lisitsa, beginning a multi-year collaborative partnership with Lisitsa’s “Queen of Rachmaninoff” imprint.

Lisitsa plays Rachmaninoff’s first sonata along with Ravel’s virtuosic Gaspard de la Nuit on 1908, set for release on February 4th, 2022.

Scriabin – Lisitsa’s first album on the Naïve label – was released on digital platforms on January 7th, 2022 to honor the 150th anniversary of the composer’s birth.

Naïve Classiques and Lisitsa have planned an ambitious series of projects, including Rachmaninoff’s complete solo piano works, Beethoven’s complete piano sonatas, and albums dedicated to Chopin, Schumann, and Ravel, to be released over the next three years.

Virtuosity is a main component of Lisitsa’s upcoming release, 1908, titled for the year in which both of the album’s works were composed.

Maurice Ravel wrote Gaspard de la nuit and famously claimed it to be the hardest piano work ever composed, while Sergei Rachmaninoff wrote his Piano Sonata no.1 in D minor – a monstrously difficult piece, and by far the longest solo piano work he would ever write.

Maurice Ravel (1875-1937)
Gaspard de la nuit
Trois poèmes pour piano d’après Aloysius Bertrand
1. Ondine
2. Le Gibet
3. Scarbo

Gaspard de la nuit exists in three movements, each based on a poem or fantaisie from the collection Gaspard de la nuit – Fantaisies à la manière de Rembrandt et de Callot, by Aloysius Bertrand.

In writing the piece, Ravel’s ambition was “to say in notes what a poet expresses in words” in each of the three movements: “Ondine”, “Le Gibet”, and “Scarbo”.

This highly emotive work opens on the flourishing lines and patterns drawn within Ondine and then we are brought the quieter, more diligent fare of Le Gibet, the last, the gently playful Scarbo, considered one of the most challenging solo piano pieces in the repertoire, summons “Gaspard of the Night.”

“Gaspard has been a devil in coming,” Ravel once said, “but that is only logical since he is the author of the poems.”

Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943)
Piano Sonata no.1 in D minor, op.28
1. Allegro moderato
2. Lento
3. Allegro molto

The three movements in Rachmaninoff’s devilishly difficult first piano sonata center on Goethe’s Faust, Gretchen and Mephistopheles. As Abram Kreeger writes in the liner notes, “The final movement of Rachmaninoff’s First Sonata is an evocation of Goethe’s Mephistopheles – the Devil himself, while all three movements of Ravel’s Gaspard are poems of death: “Ondine” is a beautiful water-nymph, “Le Gibet” is a gallows with a dead body hanging from it, “Scarbo” is hell itself.

Opening on the free-flowing majesties of Allegro moderato, Lisitsa follows that up seamlessly with the ornate musings deftly found within Lento, the recording coming to a righteous close on the sturdy, forthrightly expressed Allegro molto.

Valentina Lisitsa is the first classical artist to have converted her internet success into a global concert career in the principal venues of Europe, the USA, South America and Asia.

She posted her first video on YouTube in 2007 – a recording of Rachmaninoff’s Étude Op.39/6. The number of views was unprecedented, and her channel now boasts over 650,000 subscribers and 147 million views with an average of 75,000 views per day.

The nickname “Queen of Rachmaninoff” suggests just how thoroughly Valentina has mastered the virtuosic compositions that make up the core of her repertoire.

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