Classical Perspectives

A Fellow Romanian Remembers Dinu Lipatti

Luiza Borac: taking a direct route from Bach to Romanian folk traditions…

‘A direct route from Bach to Romanian folk traditions…’



Luiza Borac

Academy of St. Martin in the Fields

Jaime Martin, Conductor


Among the great pianists, the late Romanian virtuoso Dinu Lipatti (1917-1950), like his godfather Georges Enescu, maintained a career as a touring instrumentalist and active composer. Lipatti’s recorded legacy contains several of his own compositions, neo-Classical pieces conceived under the tutelage of Nadia Boulanger and Paul Dukas. The onset of leukemia in the course of an already busy concert schedule encroached on Lipatti’s creative output. The various solo works here championed by compatriot Luiza Borac on Piano Music of Dinu Lipatti are performed on Lipatti’s favored Bechstein instrument. The 1940 Fantasie–dedicated to future wife Madeleine Cantacuzene and performed on the Steinway D–indicates the forward-looking expression Lipatti may have evolved had he lived, especially as the Fantasie has symphonic aspirations.

The 1936 four-movement Concertino in the Classical Style, a product of Lipatti’s studies in Paris, takes a direct route from Bach and adds elements from Romanian folk traditions, the first movement emanating obvious debts to Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring from Cantata 147. The Adagio molto opens with a plaintive tune in the strings followed by oboe and violin, its tone likely an allusion to the Air from the D Major Suite, while the piano follows a line we know from the Bach Concerto in F Minor’s Arioso. The piano part serves an obbligato function rather than occupy concerto status. The lively Allegretto that follows enjoys a breezy boulevardier style reminiscent of both Stravinsky and Poulenc, rather moto perpetuo. Borac invests its brisk runs and canny syncopations with charm and gypsy allure, especially in the Trio section, a nod to Enescu and Bartok. The last movement Allegro molto borrows a tune from Haydn cross-fertilized by Bach’s Italian Concerto finale. The piano and bassoon have their unbuttoned day in the sun, the effects contrapuntal without pedantry. The Academy strings, active and perky, hang onto the flowing piano figures like a well-wrought glove.

Lipatti claimed to have completed his 1941 Sonatine for the Left Hand in two days, in time to celebrate Enescu’s sixtieth birthday. “Romanian with much brio” is how Lipatti described this “trifle.” The left hand art proves demanding in much the same way as Ravel’s concerto for the same medium, but sans orchestra. The Andante espessivo allows Borac some modal chords that convey a beguiling mystique. The rhythmically pungent Allegro last movement provides the illusion of two hands, as thumb and outer fingers move and dance in dialogue. The percussive aspects certainly could be construed as Bartok with embarrassment. Borac gives us the first recording of Lipatti’s 1932 Piano Sonata in D Minor, the romantic product of an ardent fifteen-year-old in the throes of Chopin’s B Minor Sonata. The first movement Allegro moderato has its moments of Rachmaninov, no less, declamatory and bell-toned. The score bears the words, “Music is the language of the Gods,” a clear credo of the young firebrand. The brilliant colors of the Andante clearly point to Debussy and Liszt as sources for its pearly, liquid figures, an elegant arabesque in its own right. Something of Schumann infiltrates the last movement Allegro, though it, too, hammers out percussive filigree that alternates with legato passages that partake of the neo-Classical style in Dukas or Roussel. The fugue does yield to a more academic impulse, a statement that the young composer had mastered the WTC of Bach, even if mixed with elements from Ravel and French School of composition.

Dinu Lipatti’s performance of Mozart’s Sonata in A Minor, K310, at his last public recital, at the Besancon International Music Festival on September 16, 1950. Included in this video are some photographs taken at the rehearsal in the Salle de Parlement that morning, as well as some pictures from the actual performance, which were taken by Michel Meusy. Also included is a previously unpublished picture of his hands, which (along with all Besancon pictures) is featured in the upcoming documentary Le Recital de Besancon on Sunless Films, directed by Philippe Roger.

Lipatti in 1940 re-worked the Navarra of Isaac Albeniz, not content with its standard completion by Deodat de Severac. Lipatti re-distributes the voices, maintaining the buoyant spirit (the Ur-geist) of the piece, with added emphasis on the carillon character of the writing. Borac’s is its first recording. The F-sharp Nocturne (1939) that survives is one of originally three. That Lipatti imitates Ravel’s Pavane for a Dead Princess please us only because he has embellished the dreamy texture with touches of Faure and Romanian modalities. The five-minute piece is dedicated to another legend, Clara Haskil. The A Minor Nocturne (1937) is based on a Moldavian noel, much as Chopin used a Christmas carol for his B Minor Scherzo. The ostinato figures blend with modal harmonies we recognize via Bartok and Kodaly.

The major work, the 1940 Fantasie for Piano, Op. 8 remains the most ambitious in its two major sections, subdivided into five movements. The passing tones indicate Lipatti’s familiarity with the Second Viennese School, an impulse not often acknowledged in his opera. The turbulent aspects of the work Lipatti characterized as “passionate, daring, and tormented.” The lyrical and polyphonic elements of the piece would not declare themselves Romanian so easily; they might have been penned by Frank Martin. The finale or “Deuxieme partie” presents two movements, the first lasting a mere third of the last. A lovely Allegretto cantabile leads to the finale, Allegro. That Lipatti loved “to organize time and build forms” is a sentiment Nadia Boulanger expressed of him in a tribute published after his death. The Bach Organ Pastorale in F (arr. 1942) and the transcriptions of arias from Cantata 208 (1950) constitute Lipatti’s unwavering devotion to Bach, music he played–the Andante cantabile from the organ suite–for the last time in his home ten days prior to his death. Borac’s sweet realization of these Bach works can have only one effect: to make us wish Lipatti himself had bequeathed their sound by his own hands. —Gary Lemco in Audiophile Audition, January 19, 2013

Luiza Borac plays Lipatti

‘Championing the work of a fellow Romanian’

Award-winning pianist Luiza Borac champions the compositions of fellow Romanian Dinu Lipatti in a 2-CD set that includes a number of world-premiere recordings.

Pianist Luiza Borac is the most dedicated champion of music from her native Romania. She was recognised with a BBC Music Magazine Award for her artistry and advocacy of the piano canon of Georges Enescu. She now turns to another compatriot best known as one of the greatest pianists of the 20th century who was also during his short lifetime a celebrated composer: Dinu Lipatti. With influences that range from the counterpoint of Bach to the lyricism of Chopin and the folk-tinged soundscapes of Enescu (Lipatti’s godfather), as well as his teachers Paul Dukas and Nadia Boulanger, Lipatti forged an individual voice over the 18 years of his compositional career.

The rarities that Luiza has unearthed for this 2-disc set include a number of world premiere recordings including Lipatti’s first Piano Sonata, an arrangement of Albeniz’s Navarra, and the complex Fantasie. For the Concertino in Classical Style, Lipatti’s first published composition, Luiza is joined by the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields conducted by Jaime Martin. Aiming to recreate Lipatti’s sound world as faithfully as possible, Luiza performs on a Bechstein piano, Lipatti’s instrument of choice. Presto Classical


Dinu Lipatti performs Chopin’s Valse Op. 64 n. 2 in C sharp minor (n. 7) in this 1950 recording.


Demonstrating what might have been…

Dinu Lipatti’s prowess as a pianist tended to overshadow his compositional abilities, but as this 2-CD set demonstrates, his succumbing to Hodgkin’s Disease at the age of 33 in 1950 robbed the world of a versatile and imaginative composer. His youthful work reflected the influences of those he studied: his “Nocturnes” are suffused with the Romantic melancholy of Ravel and Faure, while his affinity for Bach is evident in the “Concertino en style classique.” Lipatti’s “Sonatine” for left hand is a devilish tyro showcase, ably navigated here by Luiza Borac, while the premiere recording of his five-part “Fantasie” demonstrates the range and intelligence he might have ultimately transferred to symphonic works, had time permitted. –Andy Gill, The Independent

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