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Dinu Lipatti – The Last Recital
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1759)
Partita No. 1 op. BWV 825
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Sonate No. 8 op. K 310
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Impromptu No. 3 op. D 899 (1827) [5:04]
Impromptu No. 2 op. D 899 (1827) [5:41]
Frédéric CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Valse (B 131) op. 42 [3:27]
Valse (B 164) op. 64/1 [1:35]
Valse (B 95) op. posth.69/1 [3:13]
Valse (B 164) op. 64/2 [1:50]
Valse (B 92) op. posth.70/1 [1:23]
Valse (B 35) op. posth.69/2 [2:58]
Valse (B 56) [2:15]
Valse (B 64) op. 34/2 [3:29]
Valse (B 118) op. 34/3 [2:02]
Valse (B 138) op. posth.70/2 [1:20]
Valse (B 40) op. posth.70/3 [1:51]
Valse (B 164) op. 64/3 [2:41]
Valse (B 62) op. 18 [5:06]
Dinu Lipatti (piano)
rec. live, 16 September 1950, Salle du Parlement, Besançon, France
SOLSTICE SOCD358 [81:24]

This final recital has been previously released on Naxos Historical (review) and elsewhere, but the edition presented here uses tape from the original 1950 French Radio Broadcasting (R.T.F.). At this time of the performance Dinu Lipatti was very ill with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma from which he had been suffering since 1943, but cortisone treatment provided temporary relief, during which he was able to give two public performances: Mozart’s Concerto in C Major K.467 with Herbert von Karajan at the Lucerne Festival on August 23, and this solo recital at the 3rd Besançon International Music Festival on September 16.

The circumstances of this final recital have entered into music history. Nearly cancelled due to a fever and against the advice of his doctor, Lipatti refused to disappoint the packed venue. Radiodiffusion Française cancelled a planned live transmission of the recital fearing the worst, but the performance was recorded for future broadcast. The performance of Bach’s First Partita is vivid and full of Lipatti’s trademark clarity. Mozart’s Sonata K 310 has all of the drama and expressive grace you could wish for, and the two Schubert Impromptus have poetry and breadth, playfulness and harmonic substance in equal measure. The Chopin Waltzes are all brilliant, and Lipatti made it as far as a remarkable performance of the famous Grande Valse Brillante, Op.18, and then was sadly too weak to play the final planned waltz of the programme, Op.34 No.1. No recording of this part of the concert has been found, but reports tell us that he began the waltz, and then stopped and left the stage. After a pregnant pause, Lipatti reappeared to played his trademark Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring, the first work he had played at his first recital, a memorial to his composition teacher Paul Dukas. Dinu Lipatti died on December 2nd at the age of 33.

The edition here presents the entire recording, with the radio announcements at the end of the pieces, and Lipatti’s arpeggio warm-up gestures in advance of each different composer. The Naxos Historical version of this concert was restored from Columbia records by Mark Orbert-Thorn and certainly has greater clarity than the 2003 EMI ‘Reference’ release. More treble means some added hiss, but this has been something of a reference for listeners up to now. There are versions on the Opus Kura, Membran/Documents and Erato, only the first of these seeming to be currently available. The Solstice recording is tuned a fraction higher than that from Naxos.

The sound from the original tape is fuller than that taken from the records used for the Naxos release, but there are some extra sonic artefacts listeners should know about. There is some background machine noise that you’ll probably only notice if listening with headphones, and some electronic buzz that is also fairly recessed. This increases in volume by the Menuets in the Bach Partita however, but is still not too harmful. Audible in the Mozart, it’s a little like listening on an old analogue radio set with mild interference, the buzz coming and going, but particularly noticeable in the final Presto of the Mozart sonata and turning up like a distant dentist’s drill in Schubert’s Impromptu No. 3. This piece also seems to have a drop-in edit from an LP recording between 0:46 to 1:17. These are the main trade-offs in this release, which as a whole provides an excellent insight into this legendary concert, certainly with far more satisfying bass notes than on any other version I’ve heard.

The CD for this release is one of those black discs that looks like a mini-LP, the booklet is substantial, with notes on the event, the recording and broadcast practices of the day and more. Particularly intriguing are the numerous photos of the concert included. Any Dinu Lipatti fan will want to own this release, and it should be the library reference for this legendary concert from now on.

Dominy Clements

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