By Michael Roddy
LONDON (Reuters) - A little-known Ukrainian pianist who has had 43 million views on YouTube of her performing everything from Liszt to Schubert said on Friday for an encore she will play London's Royal Albert Hall -- and the world is invited to watch on the Internet.
Valentina Lisitsa, who has been playing piano since the age of 3, began her rise to Internet stardom five years ago, when she posted a Rachmaninov etude nicknamed "Little Red Riding Hood" on the Internet.
Perhaps in part bolstered by her flashing long fingers and blonde tresses, that video clip has had 1.5 million views, while her Beethoven "Moonlight Sonata" has garnered almost 3 million views and numerous other videos of hers have viewership of a half million and up.
Some classical music clips on the Internet, even by famous performers, have viewership in the low thousands.
Lisitsa, who had been pursuing her career without a professional manager or promoter, attributed her success to "word of mouth" and said she thought the Internet had created a new way to reach the public.
"If people pretend to be something they're not, people can feel that in the digital age," she told Reuters in a telephone interview. "They know when they are being sold something."
In order to thank her fans, Lisitsa said in a press release that she had booked the 5,000-seat London hall that serves as the venue for the BBC Proms for a concert on June 19 that also will be transmitted live on the Internet.
"I could not have done this without all my fans online around the world," she said in the press release circulated by Universal, which announced simultaneously that it had signed her for its Decca Classics label. Universal said it had calculated the 43 million views - and rising -- for Lisitsa's 180-odd YouTube videos.
"Their reactions tell me every day that I am doing the right thing and that's the best reward for my hard work," Lisitsa added. "Now I want to say thank you and give them a great concert live and online."
Lisitsa is not a complete unknown in the music world, having played with numerous orchestras, at festivals, in recitals and as the accompanist for American violinist Hilary Hahn on a CD last year of American iconoclast composer Charles Ives's sonatas for violin and piano.
(Writing by Michael Roddy; Editing by Paul Casciato)