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Dinu Lipatti (piano)
The Complete Columbia Recordings, 1947-1948
Includes Zürich test recordings with Antonio Janigro (cello)
rec. 1947/48. Mono
APR 6032 [2 CDs: 144:00]

Lipatti’s 1947-48 recordings hardly need any endorsement from me, nor any lingering analysis. Over two decades ago, when they were majoring in their single-disc ‘Signature’ series, APR released The Complete 1947 UK Columbia Recordings and they have revisited this but have now had access to vinyl pressings from the 78s for these London sessions, further to enhance their restorations; more of that later. The other major body of music is the sequence of six Zurich test pressings with cellist Antonio Janigro, made in May 1947. Two of these have already been released on an Archiphon twofer but the presence of all five surviving test discs in APR’s own 2-CD release is an essential element and a very rare example of Lipatti working with a string colleague; his 1943 recordings of Enescu’s Second and Third Violin Sonatas, with the composer playing violin, are well-known though have not always been easy to track down.

Lipatti’s discs have been much reissued over the years. Running APR’s work alongside EMI’s Dinu Lipatti; The Master Pianist, their 7-CD box [2073182], has been something of an interesting experience. The 1947 recordings are more focused and centred tonally in APR’s transfers; there’s less spread than the EMI. Try the Scarlatti sonatas where clarity and limpidity is at a premium and I think you’ll find that the APR better clarifies the sound. I’d add, apropos little, that I part company from Mark Ainley in his notes where he prefers the Abbey Road Jesu, joy of man’s desiring to the 1950 Geneva version – which is the more famous and, for me, preferable version. When we reach Chopin’s B minor sonata the superior finesse and sense of colour in the APR is apparent and it contrasts with EMI’s bluffer, more veiled sound. The same is true of the Grieg concerto; more vivid, more immediate, more refined, more colouristic.

If it really is true, as Ainley states in his excellent booklet, that especially in the US, and on CD reissues worldwide, labels have promoted dynamically constricted reissues of this material then the openness of these transfers will come as a surprise. I have to admit I don’t know how many labels have gone back to the 78s in their restorations if any but none in my experience sound quite like these APRs. The Schumann Concerto has a much more defined profile here; you can actually hear the layering and individual tonal qualities of the Philharmonia’s woodwinds after Lipatti’s first entry; on the EMI they are recessed, wooly and indistinct. You can also hear much more of the pianist’s dynamic gradients and colouristic qualities.

The test pressings are deserving of the widest currency. You can read about Walter Legge’s typically shifty position on them in the notes but what’s most important is the rapport and refinement of the collaboration. If Fournier might have seemed a more compatible cellist for Lipatti, Janigro was no mere substitute but a strong personality in his own right. Incidentally Ainley doesn’t mention this but perhaps Legge wanted his great pianist to record with Fournier, the cellist he had himself begun to record with Schnabel in the Beethoven Sonatas at almost exactly the same time as the Zurich discs were made. Our loss, as Lipatti plays the first movement of Beethoven’s Op.69 – this is the only known example of his Beethoven that exists – with great beauty.
Far from a routine restoration, with the bonus of the test pressings (which preserve a little impossible-to eradicate scuffing), this twofer has in fact broken some new ground in the excellence of its restorations. I agree with the label’s promo leaflet that the Schuman concerto, in particular, has never - in my experience, at least – sounded so good. I’d say that’s true of pretty much everything here. So add Ainley’s fine note and the transfers of Andrew Hallifax, Bryan Crimp and Werner Unger (for the Zurich tests) and you have a release that should not be overlooked simply because of the near-ubiquity of his discography. After all, Lipatti’s greatness deserves the best possible restorations.

Jonathan Woolf

Previous review: Stephen Greenbank

CD 1 [79:38]
Abbey Road, London recordings 1947
1-2. SCARLATTI Sonata in D minor Kk9 (L413); Sonata in E major Kk380 (L23)
3. BACH/HESS Jesu, joy of man’s desiring from Cantata BWV147
4. CHOPIN Nocturne in D flat major Op.27 No.2;
5. CHOPIN Waltz in A flat major Op.34 No.1
6-9. CHOPIN Piano Sonata No.3 in B minor Op.58
10. LISZT Petrarch Sonnet 104 No.5 of Années de pèlerinage, 2ème année – Italie, S161

CD2 [64:49]
Abbey Road, London recordings 1948
4. CHOPIN Barcarolle in F sharp major Op.60;
5. RAVEL Alborada del gracioso No.4 of Miroirs

Zürich test recordings with Antonio Janigro (cello) 24 May 1947
6. BEETHOVEN Cello Sonata in A major Op.69 – I. Allegro, ma non tanto
7. J S BACH (arr. SILOTI) Andante in D major from Sonata for solo violin in A minor, BWV1003
8. FAURÉ (arr. CASALS) Après un rêve Op.7 No 1
9. RAVEL (arr. BAZELAIRE) Pièce en forme de habanera;
10. RIMSKY-KORSAKOV Flight of the bumblebee

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