Things to Do in Fort Wayne and Beyond

Philharmonic welcomes pianist with huge fanbase

Lisitsa will play songs from classic cinema


Michele DeVinney

Whatzup Features Writer

Published January 16, 2020

Younger audiences are sometimes slow to come to the appreciation of orchestras. One avenue of regard for symphonic music has come from film scores with fans of Harry Potter and Star Wars turning out for the music of John Williams. 

Classic cinema can bridge the gap between the generations where continued affection for older films is enhanced by the music which carries the story from beginning to end.

One pianist, Valentina Lisitsa, has earned an enormous following by playing the classics and bringing these scores from beloved films to audiences around the world. 

Movie music bridges generations

When Lisitsa performs once again with the Fort Wayne Philharmonic, the program, Piano Themes from Cinema’s Golden Age, will feature music that Lisitsa particularly enjoys sharing.

“I love classical music, but this music is from such a different era,” Lisitsa said in a phone interview with Whatzup from Russia. “Most people know it from the films they’re in, and it’s all-generational. My mother grew up on these movies, and when I was putting the program together, she was really helping me out. People have really taken to it and have a real understanding of it. It’s part of our cultural heritage. It’s like home food. It’s comfort food for the soul.”

Whereas some might not listen to an album of classical music, they connect it and enjoy it in the context of a film. Done well, many might not even realize what they’re listening to, and it is in that moment that the music captures them and becomes deeply connected to what they enjoy about the film. In that way, it joins not only the generations but people from around the world.

“That’s what makes music classical,” Lisitsa said. “It’s like the Beatles. People can come from different countries and feel the same way about the music or the movies. It’s a common language. The music totally becomes part of those images, of those beautiful and glamorous stars. We all relate to that.”

Attracting younger audiences

Fort Wayne Philharmonic Associate Conductor Caleb Young has a deep understanding for how classical music can be enjoyed by younger audiences in a context that connects to them. 

He’s spearheaded the Music + Mixology series which gathers audience members for some food, beverage, and networking post-show, all in an attempt to draw new audiences to the orchestra. 

Additionally, films like Rudy, Star Wars, and E.T. have been incorporated into their programming this season.

“All the major classical composers have this popular music that has been film music,” Young said. “This is music that appeals to a large demographic. We’ll be doing selections from Rachmaninoff’s Second Concerto, Mozart, Shostakovich, the meat and potatoes of film. We’ll also be doing music from Pride & Prejudice and David Nyman’s music from The Piano.”

This is not the first time Lisitsa has visited Fort Wayne and played with the Fort Wayne Philharmonic.

“She performed with us a few years ago as part of the Masterworks series,” Young said. “She really became one of the first social media rock stars in classical music thanks to her YouTube channel. Her performance of ‘Moonlight Sonata’ alone has more than 44 million views.”

Social Media Sensation

When asked how she built such an enormous following so quickly, Lisitsa is herself somewhat mystified.

“I don’t really have an answer,” she said. “I am the most successful classical artist on Spotify by a large margin, and I don’t have Spotify. I’m on social media and I have many friends, but often meet them and they feel like they know me. They sometimes share their problems with me and feel like part of my family. 

“But I really did it as a way to self-promote. It’s very hard to get your name out there. Think about if you hear a song in the car or hear it on a streaming service – how do you know who the performer is? You have to really pay attention or try to hear who you’ve just been listening to. As a performer you have to get your name out there. For me this has been a way for me to connect with my audience.”

As she anticipates her upcoming return to Fort Wayne, she also has many other stops in the coming months. Lisitsa travels and tours regulary and includes Geneva, South Korea, and New Zealand among her upcoming stops. She is also busy in Russia recording an album of Beethoven sonatas, all 32 of them.

“It’s a big project,” Lisitsa said. “Less people have recorded all of his sonatas than have climbed Mount Everest.”

Lisitsa has many projects in the offing, but she continues to enjoy playing these classic movie scores and sharing them with receptive audiences.

“It’s fun to switch styles and play different pieces,” she said. “The last time I was in Indiana I played Beethoven, but just like actors don’t want to play comedy all the time or tragedy all the time, I like to do the unexpected. I like to challenge people. These shows bring in a different audience because it’s almost like a Pops concert. I like to have those as well as playing Beethoven.”

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