DINU LIPATTI—THE MASTER PIANIST • Dinu Lipatti (pn); Nadia Boulanger (pn);13 Herbert von Karajan, cond;1 Alceo Galliera, cond;2 Otto Ackermann, cond;3 Eduard van Beinum, cond;4 Ernest Ansermet, cond;5 Paul Sacher, cond;6Read more Philharmonia O;7 Lucerne Festival O;8 Concertgebouw O;9 Tonhalle O Zurich;10 O de la Suisse Romande;11 Southwest German RSO12 • EMI 07318, mono (7 CDs: 380:53)
BACH Partita No. 1 (2 versions). Nun komm’, der Heiden Heiland (arr. Busoni). Ich ruf’ zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ (arr. Busoni). Cantata No. 147: Jesu bleibet meine Freude (arr. Hess). Flute Sonata, BWV 1031: Siciliano (arr. Kempff). Keyboard Concerto, BWV 1052.4,9 SCARLATTI Sonatas: K 380; K 9. MOZART Piano Sonata No. 8 (2 versions). Piano Concerto No. 21.1,8 CHOPIN Nocturne, op. 27/2. 14 Waltzes (2 versions of all but No. 2). Mazurka in c?, op. 50/3. Barcarolle in F?. Sonata No. 3 in b. Piano Concerto No. 1.3,10 Etudes: op. 25/5; op/ 10/5. LISZT Années de pèlerinage: Sonetto 104 del Petrarca. Piano Concerto No. 1.5,11 RAVEL Miroirs: Alborado del gracioso. BRAHMS Waltzes for Piano Four Hands: op. 39/1,2,5,6,10,14,15.13 ENESCU Piano Sonata No. 3. SCHUMANN Piano Concerto.1,7 GRIEG Piano Concerto.2,7 BARTÓK Piano Concerto No. 3.6,12 SCHUBERT Impromptus: D 899/3; D 899/2
All that glitters is not gold; but all that is gold, glitters. If I were forced to sum up Dinu Lipatti’s life and achievements in one sentence, that would be it. He was the first post-modern pianist, the link between Schnabel, Rubinstein, and Cortot on the one hand and Gulda, Pollini, McDermott, and O’Conor on the other. His style combined old-world elegance and terraced dynamics with a new-world approach to structure and balance. He was the bridge that most modern pianists, even Glenn Gould, crossed to get from point A to point B. Only five years older than Noel Mewton-Wood and William Kapell, he was considered a more finished artist than either, a pianist who immersed himself so deeply in the music that his spirit came out the other side of the keyboard; yet he smoldered with a cooler intensity, a blue or orange flame rather than red.
Here at long last is his complete EMI legacy, excepting only 1947 test pressings of sonata excerpts with cellist Antonio Janigro (first movement of the Beethoven Third and a movement of a Bach cello sonata), and most of his live performances, wrapped up in one handsome package. The Chopin concerto here is the authentic one, not the performance by Halina Czerny-Stefanska erroneously issued on a Seraphim LP and reissued in 1981. Details of this recording’s history may be found online at http: //www.markainley.com/music/classical/lipatti/chopin_scandal.html. Neither the Chopin nor Liszt concertos have very clear sound; the Liszt is in fact even worse than the Chopin. But the complete package gives us a better overall picture of Lipatti than is generally assumed by those who only know or have heard his Bach, Mozart, Schumann, Grieg and Chopin. This set includes the Enescu sonata and concertos by Bartók and Liszt, music outside the mainstream of his day.
Lipatti liked to talk about the “Ur-spirit rather than the Urtext” of his performances; his Chopin, in particular, was revolutionary for its time. Though elegant, it spurned a then-common notion that one must play with hands slightly out of synch in order to penetrate the “mysteries” of the music, as Paderewski, de Pachmann, and Friedman did. I still find Lipatti’s reading of the Barcarolle less songful or persuasive than Walter Gieseking’s superb Columbia recording, but it is excellent nonetheless. Lipatti structures the Sonata No. 3 more like Beethoven than Chopin, yet it works to convey this later, terser musical statement. The waltzes, quite simply, belonged to him. He played what was written, but emphasized structural details, and turnaround phrases, in a way that drew out the emotion in the music without fuss or eccentricity. Lipatti also showed his stylistic independence, even from Rubinstein, in his muscular and unusually phrased version of the First Concerto. Despite slow tempos, there’s nothing dreamy or romantic about this performance; it has the smoldering intensity of a dormant volcano. You’ll never hear anyone play the E-Minor Etude like he does either. No one yet has caught up to him in any of this music.
His performance of Liszt’s “Petrarch Sonnet” is more poetic than Gyorgy Cziffra’s, if less rhythmically stunning, but he pulls out all the stops in Ravel’s “Alborada del gracioso,” the finest performance of this piece I’ve ever heard and, in fact, a disc to equal Kapell’s contemporaneous recording of Liszt’s Mephisto Waltz in power, color, and nuance. Equally dazzling, and entirely new to me, was his version of Enescu’s Third Sonata, a thorny work that he makes crystal clear by rapidly shifting color and mood, turning the “thorny” dissonances convincingly musical. The same approach is applied to the Bartók Third Concerto, which, if you are familiar with Bartók’s own playing on disc, you’ll find is an authentic approach.
The Grieg and Schumann concertos with the Philharmonia Orchestra are equally classic, so convincing that it’s hard to get away from their combination of glittering technique and smoldering intensity. In retrospect, it’s hard to believe that Lipatti disliked Karajan’s “super-classical” approach: there’s a kinetic energy here that works wonders. Leif Ove Andsnes has since surpassed his Grieg, due in large part to the more highly charged conducting of Mariss Jansons, but the only version of the Schumann I’ve heard that is better than Lipatti/Karajan is a 1950 broadcast by Lipatti with Ernest Ansermet.
EMI could have put this set onto six CDs instead of seven, but at the budget price ($6.85 per disc), why carp? The programming is more thematic than chronological, Lipatti’s first recording (the Brahms waltzes for piano four hands with the legendary Nadia Boulanger) coming near the end of CD 3, while the first two largely consist of his most famous recordings (the Bach, Mozart, and Scarlatti sonatas, Chopin waltzes and isolated pieces) made near his home, at Radio Geneva, in July 1950. The final recital, however, does encompass all of CD 7, and although most of this material was commercially recorded a few months earlier, it’s a necessary disc. All the music is played with entirely different tempos and phrasing, the Bach Partita drier and sounding more “plucked” as if on a harpsichord, the Mozart and especially the Chopin given entirely different tempos and rhythmic emphasis. It struck me, when listening to this set, that Lipatti played the piano almost as if it were a large, wide-ranging guitar. I wonder if he ever played that instrument at any point? Even if not, the guitar simile stands. His phrases sound with a kind of clarity that resembles a plectrum rather than the hammers.
It isn’t often that I recommend the complete recordings of any pianist. Much as I loved them, I don’t have the complete recordings of Cherkassky, Rubinstein, Schnabel, Gould, Cziffra, Kapell, or Haskil. But Lipatti was a special case. Nothing he did was ordinary, not ever, and none of it was predictable. He was in his own way what Jelly Roll Morton called jazz: “The sound of surprise.”
Waltzes for Piano, op 34 (Chopin): No 1 in A flat "Valse brillante"
Sonata for Harpsichord in E, K 380 (Scarlatti)
Partita for Keyboard no 1 (Bach): V. Menuets I & II
Average Customer Review: ( 1 Customer Review )
My desert island piano setDecember 23, 2011By Petros L. (Providence, RI)See All My Reviews"I find the FANFARE review by Lynn René Bayley quite right. These are some of the best piano recordings I've ever heard. I was 14 years old when I first listened to a Lipatti recording, Chopin's Nocturne op. 27/2, and was awestruck. More than thirty years on, my admiration for Lipatti continues unabated. This set is a must for anyone who loves piano music."Report Abuse