Listening to great pianists’ live concerts or recordings we naturally wonder what is the secret of their technical and artistic perfection which allows the music to unfold to the full. Few are those willing to disclose their personal piano practice principles and the stages they go through, from a work’s first reading to its public performance.
Questioned on this subject, Dinu Lipatti answers both modestly and to the point. On the few occasions he had to express himself, he thus outlines his exceptional and original approach: an overall evaluation is followed by an in-depth study on the technical level and only then by a personal expressive contribution, the pianist waiting quite a long time before either recording his final version or giving it on stage. That fact that he was able to assimilate any score so very easily didn’t stop him from always working, faithfully, on discovering the truth behind the notes. This explains both the perfection Lipatti reached and the relatively small number of works recorded or performed.
Between May 26th and June 16th, 1933 the second International Music Competition for Singing and Piano took place in Vienna. Lipatti’s participation at the competition and the subsequent second prize he won there stirred my interest towards the exact circumstances of this event in particular (participants, jury, historical backdrop) and, in general, towards a whole generation of pianists: the famous of the day and the hopeful talents. The ongoing comparisons among them were both usual and effective: Lipatti himself was announced in 1943 as a second Horowitz, who had an established status at the time.
How did Lipatti become the legendary musician we are celebrating today? In retrospect, one can notice a fortunate combination of talent, extraordinarily disciplined work and opportunity. In Lipatti’s case, his talent and striving efforts towards musical perfection have always been acknowledged. To illustrate the complex ensemble of events which shaped the course of what would become the Lipatti legend as a while, I set in the following study to explore two episodes of his biography: his participation at the 1933 Vienna International Piano Competition and his Berlin concerts, ten years later.
In a letter from 1949, Dinu Lipatti asked his mother to leave Romania and join him in Switzerland to nurse him. The Securitate (the secret police in Communist Romania) intercepted the letter and Anna Lipatti was arrested at the border. The paper presents a series of documents on Dinu Lipatti and his mother’s arrest, taken from the Securitate archives.
In Lipatti’s works we can detect a neo-romantic tendency (present in some of his piano pieces), a more distinct Romanian-oriented approach (adopted while under the guidance of his teacher Mihail Jora), a neoclassical line (as influenced by Bach’s music and by the pieces he comes in contact with through his Parisian experience) and a modern, European attitude, in keeping with his contemporaries Stravinsky and Bartók among others.
The works I focused on are representative of a first, Romanian-oriented period in Dinu Lipatti’s oeuvre, and of a certain creative maturity, subsequent to his studies in Paris. I drew a parallel between the Sonatinafor violin and piano and the Concertofor organ and piano in the light of the relationship Lipatti had with the distinguished musicians he dedicated these works to, Mihail Jora and Nadia Boulanger.
One of greatest pianists of all times, Dinu Lipatti’s other talents were rather shadowed by his fame as a performer. Lipatti the inspired composer therefore deserves, all the more, our attention. It is our duty and a matter of honour to identify, analyse and prepare the finest editions of these fine works, so as to offer them to both performers and public as a precious part of our artistic heritage.
The paper contains references to Dinu Lipatti’s compositions – print, manuscript, identified, or lost – and research is still in progress.
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