P0813. DINU LIPATTI: The Last Recital, incl. Bach, Mozart, Schubert & Chopin. (Germany) Naxos 8.111366, recorded 16 Sept., 1950, Besançon. Transfers by Mark Obert-Thorn. - 747313336623
“It is not surprising that Lipatti achieved cult status in the years following his death at the age of 33. He was an extremely sensitive musician and a man whose approach to the piano was one of utter fastidiousness, always striving for perfection in every aspect of his interpretation and performance. Throughout this Besançon recital there is a clarity of sound, evenness of attack and scrupulous attention to gradation of dynamics, characteristic hallmarks of Lipatti’s playing. The fourteen Chopin Waltzes are played in the order that Lipatti chose for performance but, according to his wife, he was too physically weak to play the last Waltz in A flat, Op. 34 No. 1, so it is included here from his commercial recording of a few months before.”
“This is surely one of the most famous recitals of recorded history. Lipatti, severely ill with lymphogranulomatosis, heroically went on stage in Besançon to play works he had recently recorded for EMI…. So much has been written about these performances that I doubt whether I would be adding anything to point to the magnificent poise of the 'Sarabande' in the Bach Partita – and has anyone presented a more perfect staccato than Lipatti in the first 'Menuet'? Musically, the Mozart is the finest K310 I have heard – Lipatti captures the muscular frame of the first movement while maintaining the backbone of animated regret. His articulation is spot-on, and overall there is a palpable sense of inevitability, while the slow movement sings like an opera aria.”
- Colin Clarke, CLASSICAL RECORDINGS QUARTERLY, Summer, 2011
“Lipatti's pianism is remarkable in how it expresses profound truth with utter simplicity, and is characterized by the crystalline clarity with which both structure and character are revealed. His interpretations go beyond the limited framework of the piano with his flawless command of pianistic technique - not simply digital accuracy but purity of tone regardless of the dynamics (his range was enormous), crisp precision of articulation, accenting without distortion of the melodic line, steadiness of rhythmic pulse, clarity of texture in voicing, and subtlety and timing of pedaling. That melodic lines are so deftly sculpted and presented in such stark relief is due to his ability to vary the attack used by different fingers, even within the same hand. The voicing of all lines is thus thoroughly consistent, and inner voices do not distract from the main subject; each line becomes an individual voice with its own unique timbre, together forming a choir of interdependent entities, each weaving its pattern in a tapestry of exquisite complexity.
His playing is immaculate - the balance, timing, and significance of every phrase, nuance, and harmonic progression has been considered and mastered, yet his performances exhibit warmth and passion and are free of the air of academic over-analysis. He presents each work under his fingers with such disarming simplicity that the music seems to be speaking freely through him, as though he were a receiver through which the composer’s intended message (of which the text is but a shadow) were being transmitted from the source of its inspiration – hence one French critic's comment that he ‘heard Chopin himself interpreting his Sonata in B minor’. This does not mean that he was a literalist, however, and examples abound of changes he made to the text
Dinu Lipatti grasped and clarified the idiom of every composer whose works he played, and consequently his entire discography is worthy of examination. His ability to present the structure of a work with both the architectural overview of a blueprint and the spirit of a living being renders his Bach performances particularly worthy of attention, not least an unorthodox interpretation of the d minor Concerto with selected Busoni variants: the perfectly steady decrescendo near the end of the first movement, with chromatic progressions in the outer voices superbly highlighted, puts an end to any audience noise in the Concertgebouw and will keep present-day listeners on the edge of their seats
Recordings have been issued of Lipatti in two works of Mozart, the C Major Concerto, K.467 and the a minor Sonata, K.310, and his performances of both exhibit the youthful innocence with tragic undertones that characterized the lives of both the composer and the interpreter. In his Chopin recordings, rhythmic pulse is subtly maintained, tempo shifts are beautifully choreographed (the transition into the coda of the D-flat Nocturne, the middle section of the Barcarolle, and the first movement of the Third Sonata are prime examples), and inner voices which cooperate rather than compete with the principal subject emerge clearly with pure singing tone. The middle section of the e minor Étude is a miracle of balance and texture, the long melodic line never-ending, enveloped in cascading waves of harmonies. Lipatti's virtuosity is put to dramatic yet musical use in his recording of the Grieg Concerto (the first movement cadenza is particularly spellbinding) and in all of his Liszt performances. The cadenza in the Allegro animato of the Liszt First Concerto, with its rumbling bass and carefully arched phrasing, has never sounded so sinister, and the Sonetto del Petrarca #104 is of remarkable sensuality (the tonal control in the coda is breathtaking).
There is no greater recording of Dinu Lipatti than that of Ravel's ‘Alborada del Gracioso’ (it is, in fact, the only one with which he was fully satisfied), which reveals his varied tonal palette, staggering virtuosity, and miraculous interpretative genius. The rapid-fire repeated notes, bright punchiness of the chords, impossibly hair-raising graduated glissandos with spellbinding dynamic control, and orchestral sonorities make this one of the most phenomenal of all piano recordings, one which must be heard to be believed.
The bold and profoundly inspiring nature of Dinu Lipatti's pianism continues to move lovers of fine piano playing the world over. There is little doubt that had he lived, he would have been universally acclaimed as one the greatest musical minds on the planet. While it is natural to wish for more performances to enjoy…we are indeed fortunate to have access to so many superb recordings which allow us to comprehend that such feats of musicality and divine inspiration are indeed possible. Kempff wrote that ‘all that is left for us to do is to remember the beauty of what he gave us, and to mourn’. Let us focus less on the drama of Dinu Lipatti's life and death, and instead try to embody the qualities that his musicality represents, while continuing to enjoy the unique recordings of a prince of pianists who was a master musician, ‘an instrument of God’."
- Mark Ainley
“Dinu Lipatti is regarded as a legend among 20th century pianists. Alfred Cortot thought Lipatti's playing ‘perfection’, while Clara Haskil once wrote to him, ‘How I envy your talent. The devil take it. Why must you have so much talent and I so little? Is this justice on earth?’ Was it justice that such a talented musician had such a short life? Both Lipatti's parents were musicians: his father was a violinist who had studied with Sarasate and Flesch, his mother a pianist. They, and Lipatti's godfather Georges Enescu, nurtured his talents early. Lipatti attended the Bucharest Conservatory, working with Floria Musicescu from 1928 to 1932. Cortot was one of the judges at the 1934 Vienna International Piano Competition, where Lipatti was awarded second prize. Cortot, who thought Lipatti should have won first prize, resigned from the jury and took Lipatti to Paris to study with him and his assistant Yvonne Lefébure. Lipatti also studied conducting with Charles Münch and composition with Nadia Boulanger and Paul Dukas. Lipatti recitals and concerts in Paris in the late 1930s secured his reputation as a performer. He was known for his self-discipline and thoroughness, taking years to learn a concerto before performing it in public. Those who heard him play assumed that either he had studied the music with a composer's eye or he instinctively knew how to make whatever he played sound so obviously what the composer intended, whether it was Bach or Schubert or Ravel. He returned to Bucharest in 1939 to spend the war years teaching, composing, and writing criticism. Just before the end of the war, he was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia. His illness was relieved somewhat by new medicines in 1946, enough for him to make recordings for Columbia at his home in Geneva. He took a post teaching at the Geneva Conservatory in 1949 and also recorded the Schumann Piano Concerto with Herbert von Karajan in London. The next year, however, he had to cancel tours of Australia and North and South America and cut back his European performance engagements. Just three months before his death at the age of 33, he gave one last recital in Besançon, fortunately recorded for posterity, his playing still unsurpassed despite his illness.”
- Patsy Morita, allmusic.com