Silent Film Footage of Lipatti Discovered

I am delighted to share some news that is thrilling for Dinu Lipatti fans:

The first known film footage of the great pianist has been located.

Although he is not at the piano and there are only about 10 seconds of him in this silent film, it is tremendously exciting to see him ‘in action’, so to speak. The film was made at a garden party in Lucerne in 1947 at which Hindemith, Furtwängler, Schwarzkopf, Aeschbacher, Sacher, and other celebrated musicians – as well as his own fiancée Madeleine – were in attendance.

The home movie was discovered and obtained by Orlando Murrin, who has in the last two years done some remarkable research into Lipatti’s life, following avenues not explored by other Lipatti researchers such as myself – and what fruit his efforts have borne!

Lipatti Movie StillI have seen the footage and it is utterly remarkable and very moving. Lipatti appears more at ease than he does in the famous posed photographs that have circulated for decades, with a wonderfully warm broad smile, at one moment combing his hand through his hair while in conversation in a most natural way. We get to see him as a ‘human’ and not the deified image that was perpetuated after his premature death.

Murrin will be screening the film at the pre-concert talk for a Lipatti centenary tribute concert at Cadogan Hall in London on November 28. At the concert, Romanian pianist Alexandra Dariescu will play the Grieg Concerto – one of the cornerstones of Lipatti’s performing career – as well as Lipatti’s own Concertino in Classical Style. Here a link with the details of the concert:

It is to be hoped that the existence of this private film will lead to the discovery of more footage of the great pianist and that a documentary featuring this and other Lipatti discoveries will be produced. Previously unpublished letters are being released in Romania, and these too reveal a very different side to Lipatti (very funny and witty, with astute observations about music, musicians, and business). And 15 minutes of unreleased recordings of Scarlatti and Brahms show a much more daring, bold, and impetuous side to his artistry.

Details about all of these publications will follow.

Lipatti Centenary Reissues

Immortal Dinu Lipatti

Dinu Lipatti continues to be held in high esteem 100 years after his birth due to his recorded legacy. His handful of studio recordings – which his producer Walter Legge said was ‘small in number but of the purest gold’ – and the few concert and test recordings that have been issued since his premature death almost seven decades ago have led to his continually being hailed as one of the all-time great pianists. During his lifetime and since, his records have been best-sellers, with his critically-acclaimed readings of the Schumann Concerto and Chopin Waltzes having rarely been out of print.

It is therefore very disappointing that Warner Classics, who has taken over the EMI catalogue, should have done such a terrible job in commemorating this bestselling artist for the 100th anniversary of his birth. While they have been producing many commendable historical releases of late – including a massive Menuhin Centenary set last year – their Lipatti tribute is thoroughly lacklustre and ill-conceived.

The 7-disc box issued by EMI in 2008 and still produced by Warner includes almost all of Lipatti’s commercial recordings for EMI (absent are his 1947 versions of Chopin’s Waltz Op.34 No.1 and Bach-Hess Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring, as well as the Liebeslieder Waltzes, which EMI has never included in a Lipatti set) as well as numerous important concert performances, and is highly recommended for fans of great piano playing. Although this box set is still in the catalogue, Warner decided to produce as an anniversary release a 3-disc compilation entitled Immortal Dinu Lipatti that consists entirely of recordings featured in that set: the Schumann and Mozart Concertos (No.21) with Karajan at the podium, a disc of various solo recordings, and his legendary final recital at the Besançon Festival. Warner’s promotional material speaks to their uninspired approach to producing this tribute – “All three CDs are also in the Icon box dedicated to the pianist (5099920731823) but the Besançon Recital included here benefits from a 24-bit/96kHz remastering made for a Japanese SACD edition in 2011” – thereby acknowledging that they did nothing new for this anniversary, even informing us that this Last Recital disc was remastered 6 years ago… Heaven forbid they should actually remaster any of the recordings again for his centenary celebration!

The Besançon disc does indeed have very good sound and appears to have been gone back to the original INA broadcast source material, as it includes for some reason the spoken announcement of the Mozart Sonata and Schubert Impromptus from the radio broadcast – yet if that source material was used anew, why would they not include the warm-up ‘preluding’ that Lipatti played before the Schubert and Chopin works in the recital? These are present on the master tape and are exquisitely beautiful; it is a mystery why they were never put on LP to begin with, when the arpeggios prior to the Bach and Mozart were, and these would have been most welcome in a new reissue.

Lipatti immortal backFurthermore, the sound on the solo disc of studio recordings is reprehensible. Warner is still using the same transfers of the original 78rpm discs made decades ago – the sloppy side-join in the first movement of the Chopin B Minor Sonata results in a surge in volume midway through the chord that Lipatti played both at the end and beginning of each disc, something evident in every EMI issue of the performance since the 1955 LP set on French Columbia – all these decades the label has been simply tweaking the sound of transfers made over 60 years ago without ever going back to the source material. (APR’s 1999 disc of Lipatti’s 1947 recordings featured the best transfer of the work – Bryan Crimp used freshly stamped vinyl pressings of all the sides for which the original matrices existed.) The Enescu Third Sonata is still issued a semi-tone sharp (in D-Sharp as opposed to D) and the final movement features some computerized distortion that was present in the Icon release and which clearly went unnoticed by the engineers or anyone producing that set and the current release – previous CD and LP incarnations of the performance had no such noise.

Perhaps most reprehensible is a booklet that lacks any written content other than the track listings and recording dates. To produce what is supposed to be a tribute to one of the most revered artists of the 20th century without a single word about the performer, his artistry, and the recordings themselves is lowering the bar to a point that one wonders why Warner even bothered to produce the set. It would have been very easy for them to find a writer – in-house or otherwise – to produce a tribute text, or they might even have simply reproduced a previously published essay (much as they just republished previously produced CDs) … and yet they included nothing. A staggering disappointment, particularly given the fine work Warner has been doing in reissuing historical recordings by the other major artists in their catalogue.

Lipatti Anniversary EditionHänssler in Germany, on the other hand, have produced what is the most comprehensive Lipatti issue produced to date with their 100th Anniversary Edition, including virtually everything of the pianist that’s been available in any format, from his first test recordings in 1936 to his final recorded studio and concert performances, including important items never released on EMI/Warner. They have used all of the material uncovered by my research and featured on the CDs that I co-produced on the Archiphon label in the 90s (though they have done so without seeking authorization), and a little more: I must admit to being a bit surprised that they used the excerpt of an unpublished 1936 test recording of Brahms’ Op.118 No.6 from my YouTube channel – had they written to ask, I could have provided more of the performance (although it is marred by skips in the record in the 1960s tape transfer, the original disc having been lost).

The organizational principle of Hänssler’s set is ideal, presenting Lipatti’s recordings in chronological order across 12 discs, with CD1 being Pre-War Recordings 1936-1938, CDs 2 and 3 War Recordings 1941-1943, CDs 4-7 featuring Post-War Recordings 1945-1948, CDs 8-11 the ‘Last year of Dinu Lipatti 1950’. and CD 12 being the ‘Last Recital oLipatti anniversary backf Dinu Lipatti (age 33)’. Linguistically unidiomatic titles aside, the collection is logically sequenced as a whole, although there are some odd choices throughout: on CD 9, for example,  Lipatti’s concert recording of the Mozart C Major Concerto from August 1950 is presented before the February 22 concert performance of the Schumann Concerto, whereas the reverse would have fit the chronological ordering of the entire box set. If they did this in order to present the composers chronologically, then the ordering of solo works on disc 7 is inconsistent, as it features Lipatti’s 1947 Abbey Road recordings of Chopin prior to the two Scarlatti Sonatas recorded the same year, before shifting eras again to Liszt. Lipatti’s 1947 Bach-Hess Jesu Joy was not included on that disc, the producers having chosen to place it at the end of his Besancon recital on the final disc to replicate how Lipatti actually played that recital (a recording of the final portion of his recital that includes the encore has never been found); the only problem is that they have used the 1950 recording and not the 1947 as stated, so that earlier reading is as a result regrettably absent from the set.

One of the most unfortunate omissions comes with Lipatti’s 1947 test recordings with cellist Antonio Janigro, never published in his lifetime or by EMI (Walter Legge has a lot to answer for here – his not having released these magnificent performances while claiming to do all he could to promote Lipatti’s art was inexcusable, as the playing of both artists is utterly sublime). Three of the six works that the duo recorded in a Zurich studio are featured, the only takes that were issued on Archiphon in 1995 as we had only located two of the six discs at the time. However, I have since located two of the other works, most notably the first movement of Beethoven’s Third Cello Sonata – obviously of great interest since there are no other known recordings of Lipatti playing Beethoven. If the producers of the set had been in contact to inquire about using the recordings I’d previously discovered or about what else might be available, I would certainly have arranged for them to include these other performances for their first CD appearance. Also missing from the compilation are two previously issued interviews with Lipatti from 1950, although the solo works he played in the radio studio in his July interview are included separately. A third interview made prior to his final concerto performance in Lucerne has still never been published in its entirety.

As regards sound quality, the producers have taken the EMI, Archiphon, Electrocord, and Decca transfers and refiltered them. While there is some better clarity in some works, in others the sound is a bit tinny and processed. They have wisely adjusted the pitch to the 1943 Enescu Third Sonata so that it is on-key (unlike any of the EMI issues) and it sounds very fine indeed, the best commercially available. They have chosen the Archiphon transfer of the Chopin Concerto, which is infinitely better than EMI’s, yet they used the 1995 reissue of the Etude Op.25 No.5 that is missing the first two measures, rather than using the complete version from the 2001 release (from which they took the Concerto). While one might wish for a more robust and less filtered sound in the set, the sound overall is still serviceable and the strength of the compilation certainly makes it a worthwhile purchase.

My final ‘if only’ about the set relates to the booklet, which features a text that is poorly translated into English and occasionally factually incorrect, repeating the famous lie perpetuated by Legge that Lipatti had wanted three or four years to prepare the Tchaikovsky and Beethoven Emperor Concertos, something I disproved in publications starting in 1999 with evidence from EMI’s own archives. The photographs as well appear to have been taken from secondary sources when fine copies would gladly have been provided for this worthwhile project.

All of these reservations aside, the Hänssler release is currently the only way to have access to the widest range of Lipatti recordings in one compilation. The producers deserve kudos for having had the vision to produce this set and for the comprehensive nature of the production. Lipatti fans won’t want to be without it.

Lipatti Tribute Program

Here is the link to a YouTube video of a guest appearance that I made on Dinu Lipatti’s official birthday – March 19 – for his centenary celebrations. Host Gary Lemco and I discussed Lipatti’s playing and recordings, playing a series of known and less known performances by the great pianist. Included are an excerpt of Lipatti accompanying the great cellist Antonio Janigro in the first movement of Beethoven’s Third Cello Sonata and Lipatti’s gorgeous reading of the Schubert G-Flat Impromptu from his final recital, complete with the warm-up arpeggios that he played prior to the performance.

Dinu Lipatti’s Final Essay – On Interpretation

Below is a draft from May 1950 of a presentation for an Interpretation Course to be held at the Conservatoire de Geneve. Lipatti had planned to give the course with Nadia Boulanger in the Spring of 1951. The text below was found in his papers after his death, and gives a good glimpse of his views towards interpretation.

It is unjustly believed that the music from one era or another must preserve the imprint, the characteristics, and even the vices prevalent at the time this music was created. In thinking this way we have a peaceful conscience and find ourselves incapable of any dangerous misrepresentation. And to reach this objective, for all the effort, for all the research done in the dust of the past, for all the useless scrupulousness towards the ‘sole object of our attention,’ we will always end up drowning it in an abundance of prejudices and false facts. For, let us never forget, true and great music transcends its time and, even more, never corresponded to the framework, forms, and rules in place at the time of its creation: Bach in his work for organ calls for the electric organ and its unlimited means, Mozart asks for the pianoforte and distances himself decisively from the harpsichord, Beethoven demands our modern piano, which Chopin – having it – first gives its colors, while Debussy goes further in presenting through his Preludes glimpses of Martenot’s Wave [i]. Therefore, wanting to restore to music its historical framework is like dressing an adult in an adolescent’s clothes. This might have a certain charm in the context of a historical reconstruction, yet is of no interest to those other than lovers of dead leaves or the collectors of old pipes.

These reflections came to me while recalling the astonishment that I caused some time ago when I played, at a prominent European music festival [ii], Mozart’s D minor Concerto [K. 466] with the magnificent and stunning cadenza that Beethoven made for this work. True, we could sense that the same themes appear differently under Beethoven’s pen than under that of Mozart. But this is exactly wherein lies the appeal of this interesting confrontation between two such different personalities. I regret to say that other than a few enlightened spirits, nobody understood this marriage and everyone suspected that I had composed this vile and anachronistic cadenza!

How right Stravinsky is in affirming that ‘Music is the present’!

Music has to live under our fingers, under our eyes, in our hearts and in our brains with all that we, the living, can offer it.

Far be it for me to promote anarchy and disdain for the fundamental laws which guide, along general lines, the coordination of a valid and pertinent interpretation. But I find it a grave mistake to lose oneself in researching useless details regarding the way in which Mozart would have played a certain trill or grupetto. As for myself, the diverse markings provided by excellent yet incomplete treatises compel me to decisively take the path to simplification and synthesis while immutably preserving some four or five fundamental principles of which I think you are aware (or at least, I suppose you are), and for the rest I rely on intuition, that second but no-less-precious intelligence, and to in-depth penetration of the work, which, sooner or later, ends up confessing the secret of its soul.

Never approach a score with eyes of the dead or the past, for they may bring you nothing more in return than Yorick’s skull [iii]. Alfredo Casella rightly said that we must not be satisfied with merely respecting masterpieces, but we must love them.

This translation © Mark Ainley 2003

End notes

i. An invention by Maurice Martenot (1898-1980) based on his discovery that the recently invented radio tubes produced a certain ‘purity of vibrations’. He presented his unique instrument at the Paris Opera in 1928 (he had started his research in 1919) and a number of composers, particularly French, wrote works for it.

ii. Lipatti performed the Mozart D Minor Concerto at the Lucerne Music Festival on August 23, 1947, with Paul Hindemith conducting.

iii. This refers to the scene in ‘Hamlet’ where the protagonist finds the skull of his favourite clown from his childhood. Lipatti is most likely stressing that in searching for the exact style of interpretation in the past, we may end up with something that once contained life but no longer does.

Dinu Lipatti’s Repertoire – Solo Piano and Two-Piano Works

The following is a list of the works that Dinu Lipatti is known to have played in public. It is based on existing concert programs and letters that give evidence that Lipatti actually played these works in concert – his private repertoire was larger. Occasionally, the list – originally compiled by Lipatti biographer Grigore Bargauanu and the collector Marc Gertsch, with a few additions made now – lacks some detail in terms of exact works: for example, Lipatti played at least six Chopin Preludes, but exactly which ones he performed are unknown. Many of the works – particularly the four Beethoven Sonatas and the Schubert B-Flat Sonata! – are from his early performing years in the 1930s; he played the Waldstein throughout his career, however, and not only in the last few years of his life as his recording engineer Walter Legge erroneously reported. Some of the works that he did play in his later years include Bach Prelude and Fugues, Schumann’s Études Symphoniques, Ravel’s Le tombeau de Couperin, and Chopin’s Fourth Ballade.

It is an enticing list that makes the lack of more recordings by this unique artist all the more regrettable. Let us hope that some other concert broadcasts or private recordings will be found!

Works for Solo Piano and Two Pianos

Iberia, Book 1 – 1. Evocación
Iberia, Book 1 – 2. El Puerto
Iberia, Book 2 – 3. Triana
Navarra (transcribed by Lipatti)
Petite serenade

Two Dances
Two Pieces Op.18

Chorale in G Major, BWV 147 “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” (arr. Hess)
Chorale Prelude, “Ich ruf zu Dir, Herr Jesu Christ” BWV 639 (arr. Busoni)
Chorale Prelude, “Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland” BWV 659 (arr. Busoni)
English Suite No.3 in G Minor, BWV 808
Italian Concerto, BWV 971
Partita No.1 in B-Flat Major, BWV 825
Pastorale in F Major for organ, BWV 590 (transcribed Lipatti)
Phantasy in A Minor, BWV 904
Preludes and Fugues from the Well-Tempered Clavier (at least 4)
Prelude and Fugue in E Minor for organ, BWV 533
Siciliano from Flute Sonata, BWV 1031 (arr. Kempff)
Toccata in D Major, BWV 912
Toccata in C Major, BWV 564 (arr. Busoni)

Allegro barbaro
Six Dances in Bulgarian Rhythm (Mikrokosmos Vol.6)
Sonata for Piano

Piano Sonata No.7 in D Major, Op.10 No.3
Piano Sonata No.17 in D Minor, Op.31 No.2
Piano Sonata No.21 in C Major, Op.53 “Waldstein”
Piano Sonata No.23 in F Minor, Op.57 “Appassionata”

Concert Polka for Two Pianos

Capriccio in D minor, Op.116 No.7
Intermezzo in A Minor, Op.116 No.2
Intermezzo in E-Flat Major, Op.117 No.1
Intermezzo in B-Flat Minor, Op.117 No.2
Intermezzo in E-Flat Minor, Op.118 No.6
Intermezzo in C Major, Op.119 No.3
Variations on a Theme by Haydn for Two Pianos
Waltzes Op.39 for Two Pianos (Nos. 1, 2, 5, 6, 10, 14, 15 – and perhaps others)

Five Preludes

Variations for Keyboard

Various Pieces for Keyboard


Ballade No.4 in F Minor, Op.52
Barcarolle in F-Sharp Major, Op.60
Étude in G-Flat Major, Op.10 No.5
Étude in C Major, Op.10 No.7
Étude in F Major, Op.10 No.8
Étude in E Minor, Op.25 No.5
Étude in A Minor, Op.25 No.11
Mazurka in E Minor, Op.41 No.1
Mazurka in B Major, Op.41 No.2
Mazurka in C-Sharp Minor, Op.41 No.4
Mazurka in C-Sharp Minor, Op.50 No.3
Nocturne No.8 in D-Flat Major, Op.27 No.2
Polonaise in E-Flat Major, Op.22
Polonaise in F-Sharp Minor, Op.44
Polonaise-Fantaisie in A-Flat Major, Op.61
various Preludes Op.28 (at least 6)
Rondo in F Major, Op.5
Scherzo No.1 in B Minor, Op.20
Scherzo No.3 in C-Sharp Minor, Op.39
Scherzo No.4 in E Major, Op.54
Sonata No.3 in B Minor, Op.58
Waltzes Nos.1 through 14
Waltz Op. Posth (which one is unknown)

Arabesque (No.1 or 2)
Estampes No.2, “La soiree dans Grenade”
Étude pour les arpèges composés (and possibly others)
L’isle joyeuse
Images Book 1 No.1: “Reflets dans l’eau”
Images Book 1 No.2: “Hommage a Rameau”
Preludes (various)

Capriccio in F Minor, Op.28 No.6

Piano Sonata No.1 in F-Sharp Minor, Op.24 No.1
Piano Sonata No.3 in D Major, Op.24 No.3
Suite No.2 in D Major, Op.10
Variations on an Original Theme for two pianos, Op.5

De Falla
Ritual Fire Dance

Impromptu No.3 in A-Flat Major, Op.34
Nocturne No.1 in E-Flat Minor, Op.33

Concertino for two pianos

Suite No.3 in D Minor, HWV 428

Jewish March Op.8

Two Dances

Two Bagatelles

Compositions of childhood
Romanian Dances for two pianos
Three Dances for two pianos
Phantasie for piano solo
Sonatina for left hand
Suite for two pianos

Concert Etude, “La Leggierezza”, S.144
Concert Etude, “Gnomenreigen”, S.145
Harmonies du soir
Mephisto Waltz No.1
Sonetto del Petrarca No.104

Deux pieces impromptues, Op.19

Piano Sonata No. 8 in A Minor, K.310
Sonata for Two Pianos in D Major, K.448

Duettino concertante for two pianos

Sonatine Op.8

Two Dances

Six Nocturnes

Miroirs No.4, “Alborada del gracioso”
Miroirs No.5, “La vallee des cloches”
Le tombeau de Couperin
La Valse for two pianos

Piano Sonata in E Major, L.23
Piano Sonata in G Major, L.387
Piano Sonata in D Minor, L.413
Piano Sonata in B-Flat Major
Piano Sonata in F Major
Piano Sonata in G Minor

Impromptu No.2 in E-Flat Major, D.899 No.2
Impromptu No.3 in G-Flat Major, D.899 No.3
Piano Sonata No.21 in B-Flat Major, D.960
Allegro in A Minor for two pianos, D.947

Blumenstück, Op.19
Carnaval, Op.9
Études Symphoniques, Op.13
Novelette No.2 in D Major, Op.21

Danse russe (from “Petrouchka”)
Sonata for piano

Invitation to the Dance for two pianos