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Dinu Lipatti (1917-1950)
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)

Partita No. 1 in B flat, BWV 825
"Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland" (arr. Busoni), BWV 599
"Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ" (arr. Busoni), BWV 639
"Jesu bleibet meine Freude" (arr. Hess) from Cantata BWV 147
Siciliano (arr. Kempff) from Sonata in E flat for Flute & Harpsichord, BWV 1031
Domenico SCARLATTI (1685-1757)

Sonata in E major, Kk.380 *
Sonata in D minor, Kk.9 "Pastorale" *
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)

Sonata No. 8 in A minor, K.310
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)

Impromptu in G flat, D.899, no.3 **
Impromptu in E flat, D.899, no.2 **
Dinu Lipatti, piano
Recorded Studio 2, Radio-Genève, Switzerland, 1950
No. 3 Studio, Abbey Road, London, 1947 *
Salle du Parlement, Besançon, France, 1950 **
"Great Recordings of the Century"
EMI CLASSICS 66988 [60:42]

 

The other day I was reading some negative comments about the artistry of Dinu Lipatti on an Internet classical music discussion site. In essence, these comments implied that Lipattiís lack of greatness would have been recognized if he had not died at an early age from leukaemia.

Thinking those comments rather odd and even nasty, I consoled myself by playing a few of his recordings that I have in my music library which really just consists of a number of closets and one large entertainment center. From my perspective, Lipatti is one of the greatest pianists of the 20th century, and this distinction comes from his innate sense of musical structure, flow, and equilibrium. When listening to his performances, you wonít be amazed at his virtuosity or lifted to new heights of rapture and understanding of the human condition. However, listen to a multi-movement work in one sitting, and his wonderfully cohesive flow should eventually hook you into his presentation of a composerís soundworld.

Perhaps the strongest praise I can give Lipatti is that his interpretations always sound just right, even when I know there are alternative performances more in my preferred pleasure zones. A perfect example is his recording of Bachís Partita No. 1 in B flat. I love the slow versions from Rosalyn Tureck/Philips, Andrew Rangell/Dorian, and Wolfgang Rübsam/Naxos for their attention to detail, originality, and depth of expression. The much quicker Angela Hewitt/Hyperion performance is also treasured for its rhythmic bounce and playful nature.

Lipattiís performance is as quick as Hewittís, but doesnít have nearly the bounce or vibrancy. As for emotional depth, heís light years behind Rübsam, Tureck, and Rangell. Yet, I keep playing his version, and thoughts of other pianists simply disappear. His interpretation of Bachís music works on flow and structure, and there isnít another recorded version that conveys the rock-solid coherency offered by Lipatti. We often hear about music played in a natural manner, and Lipatti is surely its role model.

His Partita in B flat takes less than eighteen minutes to traverse and is a no-nonsense performance. Detours from the main road are minimal, as Lipatti concentrates on the development and completion of the architecture. I canít even say that heís particularly exciting when flying through a fast piece such as the 2nd Movement Allemande. Regardless, it all feels right and perfectly balanced.

Lipatti plays the four Bach arrangements in compelling fashion, particularly the Busoni arrangement of the Chorale Prelude BWV 599. This is one of my favorite Bach Chorale Preludes, and Lipattiís sonority and sense of inevitability amazingly equals the best organ versions. Further, he conveys a highly determined projection of human aspiration, and that is the crucial emotional theme of the piece.

Many pianists play Scarlattiís keyboard music with a smooth legato and deficient rhythmic bounce to the extent that Scarlatti would hardly recognize his own creations. Fortunately, Lipatti will have none of that. His Scarlatti is perky and delightfully playful. Just one hearing of the Sonata K. 380 informs us that Lipatti can be as delicate and whimsical as the best harpsichord players in this repertoire.

Lipattiís performance of Mozartís Sonata in A minor is among the best on record. I previously mentioned Lipattiís keen sense of architectural balance, and Mozartís music thrives on excellent balance. When listening, note the elegance Lipatti imparts to the 2nd Movement Andante and the signs of impending danger in his interpretation of the 3rd Movement Presto. To Lipatti, Mozart is much more than lovely melodies strung out in smooth and pretty displays; he recognizes the seething emotions below the surface, and balances them expertly with his graceful and optimistic caressing of notes.

Lipatti concludes the recital with outstanding readings of two Schubert Impromptus. The drama and tension he injects into the Impromptu in G flat are uncommon and absolutely stunning, while his Ďrunsí in the E flat are expertly balanced and exciting.

As for sound quality, it is never less than acceptable although three different venues are utilized. The Scarlatti pieces carry the greatest aural debris, but Lipattiís irresistible music-making easily makes one forget such matters.

In summary, I canít stress enough the advantage of playing this Dinu Lipatti recording straight through from start to finish. Only in this fashion does Lipattiís artistry fully emerge. Although the program features four very different composers, Lipatti serves notice that he is thoroughly grounded in their separate soundworlds as if he changes his personality from one composer to the next. Lipattiís unaffected pianism is always at the service of the composition. EMI hails this disc as one of its "Great Recordings of the Century", and I have no doubts as to the accuracy of the title. Lipatti enthusiasts certainly already have the recording in their libraries from previous reissues. Those not familiar with the manís artistry should waste no time in acquiring a disc which is essential for all keyboard fans. Consistently noble, sensitive, assertive, and penetrating, Lipatti shows us that superb pianism and total immersion in a composerís psychology can be an ideal match. That he succeeds with every composerís music he plays is an accomplishment few pianists ever attain.

Don Satz

 



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