Arts & Culture

Chess in the Hands of a Musician

As a typical teenager, I get bored when I have no school to do. The solution? Listen to music on YouTube. Who did I find? To tell the truth, the proper question would be “What did I find?” The answer to that question is the fingers of a woman flying over a piano as she played Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2, which some people can relate to a clip from Tom and Jerry’s. Why did this performance blow my mind? She played this difficult song as easily as anyone could sing their ABCs! Easier, in fact unless you are my baby brother and can’t tell the difference between the letter P and the letter D–but that’s beside the point. For her, playing piano seems like an extension of her body. She is “a delicate, sensitive, fluid player who can ripple gently over the keys with the unctuous smoothness of oil.” It seems as if she could play any song that might stump a virtuoso pianist. This woman is Valentina Lisitsa.

Each move on a chess board must be precise and specific. A wrong move from the chess player could result in losing a piece, but a right move could result in taking a piece from their opponent. A particularly terrible move could result in losing the game, but a particularly good move could result in winning the game. At this point, many of you may be wondering why I’m talking about chess. I find that being a chess player is much like being a musician. Playing an instrument is not just about having fun–it is also about precision and meaning. A wrong move from the player’s hand could result in missing a note, but a right move from the player’s hand will result in hitting each specific note. Making a terrible mistake could just end a musician’s musical career, but a good performance could provide the opportunity for a musician to succeed in life. It seems as if Valentina Lisitsa, who first desired to become a professional chess player, understands how to play the game. However, music is not simply a game she plays. Music is her life—that is the only difference.

The very beginning of her journey began at the Lysenko Music School for Gifted Children and the Kiev Conservatory. However, the beginning of her fame starts not with her solo achievements but with the achievements of her husband. They played piano duets together and won several competitions. Her successes eventually inspired her to become a professional concert musician. She began as a YouTube musician, but “they started telling [Valentina Lisitsa] that [her] interpretations meant something to them, that they changed things, that they stood out.” She received millions of views and thousands of people began subscribing to her channel.

She now travels worldwide to places including the United States, France, and Germany to perform in concerts featuring the works of classical composers, but most of all, those of Sergej Rachmaninoff, one of her favorites. Some of her most notable performances include her performance with the Spanish National Orchestra, Berlin Philharmonie, Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra, the London Symphony Orchestra, and many more. She even appeared on BBC’s proms at the Royal Albert Hall in London.

Throughout all her achievements, she does not take the credit for the works of art she plays. “I’m nothing but a conduit. Music goes through my ears, my fingers… Composer creates music. We’re performers. We’re just passing it on.” She claims. Musical notes are golden tools in the musical industry. The performers are the ones who work the tools. Valentina Lisitsa clearly understands this and wishes to honor her position. My hope is that we too will not take the glory but give it to God. Like musical notes belong to the composer, we belong to God. After all, God gave us the talents that we have.

Check out more of her incredible performances here:


Works Cited:

“Valentina Lisitsa.” IMG Artists, 14 Mar. 2018,

Valentina Lisitsa – Biography,

“Valentina Lisitsa.” Valentina Lisitsa – Wikiquote,

Photo Credits:

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