Dinu Lipatti’s Repertoire – Chamber Music

It is a little known fact that Dinu Lipatti was a skilled and enthusiastic chamber music performer. In his teens at the Ecole Normale de Musique in Paris, he had a trio with his fellow students Ginette Neveu and Antonio Janigro. He would tour Switzerland in 1947 with Janigro but it doesn’t seem as though he played with Neveu again, a real loss for posterity, especially since both of them were EMI recording artists. While he recorded his godfather Georges Enescu’s second and third Violin Sonatas with the composer performing, he didn’t officially record any chamber music from the mainstream repertoire. However, he did record six works with Antonio Janigro as a test for Walter Legge in May 1947, but these were never released in his lifetime and only a few shorter works were found and issued in 1994 (this will be the subject of another post).

Below are all of the chamber music works that Dinu Lipatti is known to have played in public, and his private repertoire was doubtless larger: violinist Lola Bobescu spoke of them having played a Mendelssohn Trio together.

Sonata No.3 in E Major for Violin and Piano, BWV 1016
Sonata No.2 in D Major for Cello and Piano, BWV 1025

Sonata No.6 in A Major for Violin and Piano, Op.30 No.1
Sonata No.7 in C Minor for Violin and Piano, Op.30 No.2
Sonata No.10 in G Major for Violin and Piano, Op.96
Sonata No.3 in A Major for Cello and piano, Op.69
Trio No.4 in B Major, Op.8

Liebeslieder Walzer Op.52 for Two Pianos and Singers
Sonata No.1 in E Minor for Cello and Piano, Op.38
Trio No.1 in B Major, Op.8

Nocturne in C Sharp Minor for Cello and Piano, Op. Posth.

Sonata No.2 in F Minor for Violin and Piano, Op.6
Sonata No.3 in A Minor for Violin and Piano, Op.25
Impressions d’enfance (Suite for Violin and Piano), Op.28

Sonata No.1 in A Major for Violin and Piano, Op.13
Sonata No.2 in E Minor for Violin and Piano, Op.108
‘Après un rêve’ for Cello and Piano (after Melodie Op.7 No.1)

Sonata in A Major for Violin and Piano

Sonatina for Violin and Piano
Fantaisie cosmopolite for Violin, Cello, and Piano

Sonata in G Major for Violin and Piano, K.379
Sonata in A Major for Violin and Piano, K.526?

‘Pièce en forme de Habanera’ for Cello and Piano

‘The Flight of the Bumblebee’ for Cello and Piano

Trio No.1 in B-Flat Major, D.898

Dinu Lipatti’s Repertoire – Piano and Orchestra

This is a list of works for piano and orchestra that Dinu Lipatti played in public over the course of his career, starting in his teens. His private repertoire was larger – he prepared Ravel’s Left Hand Concerto, for example (his score is filled with detailed fingerings) but he never played it in public. But, contrary to popular belief, he did play Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto – twice, both in Bucharest in the 1940-41 season.

Lipatti recorded only three of these works commercially – the Grieg, Schumann, and his own Concertino – but we now have recordings of 9 out of the 23 works for piano and orchestra that he performed. Let us hope that more broadcast recordings of these other works will surface!

This list will be amended to include dates of known performances of these works based on concert programs in private and official collections.

Works for Piano and Orchestra

Bach-Busoni Piano Concerto in D Minor, BWV 1052
Bach Concerto for Two Pianos in C Minor, BWV 1060
Bach Concerto for Two Pianos in C Major, BWV 1061
Bartok Piano Concerto No.3
Beethoven Piano Concerto No.5 in E-Flat Major, Op.73
Chopin Andante Spianato and Polonaise for Piano and Orchestra, Op.22
Chopin Piano Concerto No.1 in E Minor, Op.11
Grieg Piano Concerto in A Minor, Op.16
Haydn Piano Concerto in D Major Hob.VIII:11 (cadenzas by Lipatti)
Lipatti Concertino in Classical Style, Op.3
Lipatti Danses Roumaines for Piano and Orchestra
Lipatti Symphonie Concertante for Two Pianos and String Orhcestra
Liszt Piano Concerto No.1, S124
Liszt Piano Concerto No.2, S125
Martin Ballade for Piano and Orchestra
Martin “La danse de la peur” for Two Pianos and Orchestra
Mozart Concerto for Two Pianos in E-Flat Major, K365
Mozart Piano Concerto No.9 in E-Flat Major, K271
Mozart Piano Concerto No.20 in D Minor, K.466 (cadenzas by Beethoven)
Mozart Piano Concerto No.21 in C Major, K.467 (cadenzas by Lipatti)
Ravel Piano Concerto in G Major
Schumann Piano Concerto in A Minor, Op.54
Stravinsky Capriccio for Piano and Orchestra

Dinu Lipatti Discography

Below is a list of known recordings of Dinu Lipatti. This discography is currently in draft format and will be revised.

June 25, 1936
Ecole Normale de Musique, Paris

1. Bach: Partita No.1 in B-Flat Major, BWV 825: Prelude, Sarabande, Allemande*
2. Bach-Lipatti: Improvisation (on Bach-Busoni Toccata in C)*
3. Brahms: Intermezzo in B-Flat Minor, Op.117 No.2 (abbr.)
4. Enescu: Sonata in F-Sharp, Op.24 No.1: ii. Presto vivace
5. Brahms: Intermezzo in E-Flat minor, Op.118 No.6
*Bach works performed on harpsichord

February 20, 1937; March 12, 1937; January 22, 1938
Salle Gouin, Paris

6. Brahms: Liebeslieder Walzer Op.52
with Nadia Boulanger, piano, Irene Kedroff (soprano), Marie-Blanche de Polignac (alto), Hugues Cuenod (tenor), Paul Derenne (tenor), Doda Conrad (bass)

February 25, 1937

7. Brahms: Waltzes for Piano 4-hands, Op.39: Nos. 6, 15, 2, 1, 14, 10, 5, 6
with Nadia Boulanger, piano


8. Mozart-Busoni: Duettino Concertante for 2 pianos
with Madelaine Lipatti, piano
This unpublished test recording unfortunately deteriorated to the point that it could not be salvaged

April 28, 1941
Bucharest Broadcasting Studio, Bucharest

9. Bach-Hess: Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring (abbr)
10. Brahms: Intermezzo in A Minor, Op.116 No.2
11. Brahms: Intermezzo in E-Flat Major, Op.117 No.1
12. Chopin: Waltz No.2 in A-Flat Major, Op.34 No.1
13: Chopin: Etude in G-Flat Major, Op.10 No.5
14: Liszt: Concert Etude No.2: Gnomenreigen
15: Scarlatti: Sonata in G, L387 (Kk14)
16: Schumann: Etudes Symphoniques Op.13: No.9
Note: Some of these recordings may not have been recorded at this session. They were found in a private collection and Lipatti’s biographers Dragos Tanasescu and Grigore Bargauanu believed them all to be made on this, but this has not been verified.

January 14, 1943

17. Lipatti: Concertino in Classical Style, Op.3
Hans von Benda, Berlin Chamber Orchestra

March 2, 1943
Romanian Broadcasting Studio, Bucharest

18. Enescu: Suite for Piano No.2 in D, Op.10: Bourree

March 4, 1943
Romanian Broadcasting Studio, Bucharest

19. Lipatti: Sonatina for left hand

March 11, 1943
Romanian Broadcasting Studio, Bucharest

20. Enescu: Violin Sonata No.3 in A Minor, Op.25
with Georges Enescu, violin

March 13, 1943
Romanian Broadcasting Studio, Bucharest

21. Enescu: Violin Sonata No.2 in F Minor, Op.6
with Georges Enescu, violin

October 18, 1943
Radio Bern

22. Enescu: Piano Sonata No.3 in D Major, Op.24

February 20, 1947
EMI Abbey Road Studio No.3, London

23. Scarlatti: Sonata in D Minor, L413 (Kk9)
24. Chopin: Nocturne No.8 in D-Flat Major, Op.27 No.2

March 1 and 4, 1947
EMI Abbey Road Studio No.3, London

25. Chopin: Piano Sonata No.3 in B Minor, Op.58

May 24, 1947
Wolfbach Studio, Zurich

26. Beethoven: Cello Sonata No.3 in A Major, Op.69: I. Allegro ma non tanto
27. Bach: Cello Sonata in D: II. Andante
28. Chopin: Nocturne in C-Sharp Minor
29. Faure: Apres un reve
30. Rimsky-Korsakov: The flight of the bumblebee
31. Ravel: Piece en forme de habanera
with Antonio Janigro, cello

June 6, 1947
Grand Theatre, Geneva

32. Liszt: Piano Concerto No.1 in E-Flat Major
with Ernest Ansermet, Orchestre de la Suisse Romande
Note – At the same concert, Lipatti performed Chopin’s Andante Spianato and Polonaise, but that recording has not been found

September 18 and 19, 1947
EMI Abbey Road Studio No.1, London

33. Grieg: Piano Concerto in A Minor, Op.16
with Alceo Galliera, The Philharmonia Orchestra

September 24, 1947
EMI Abbey Road Studio No.3, London

34. Chopin: Waltz No.2 in A-Flat Major, Op.34 No.1
35. Bach-Hess: Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring
36. Liszt: Sonetto del Petrarca No.104

September 25, 1947
BBC Studios, London

37. Liszt: La Leggierezza

September 27, 1947
EMI Abbey Road Studio No.3, London

38. Scarlatti: Sonata in E Major, L.23 (Kk380)

October 2, 1947
Concertgebouw, Amsterdam

39. Bach-Busoni: Piano Concerto No.1 in D Minor, BWV 1052
with Eduard van Beinum, Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orchestra

April 9 and 10, 1948
EMI Abbey Road Studio No.1, London

40. Schumann: Piano Concerto in A Minor, Op.54
with Herbert von Karajan, The Philharmonia Orchestra

April 17, 1948
EMI Abbey Road Studio No.3, London

41. Ravel: Alborada del Gracioso

April 17 and 21, 1948
EMI Abbey Road Studio No.3, London

42. Chopin: Barcarolle in F-Sharp Major, Op.60

May 30, 1948
Studio Kurhaus, Grosser Buehnensaal, Baden-Baden

43. Bartok: Piano Concerto No.3
with Paul Sacher, Sinfonie-Orchester des Suedwestfunks

February 7, 1950
Tonhalle, Zurich

44. Chopin: Piano Concerto No.1 in E Minor, Op.11
with Otto Ackermann, Zurich Tonhalle-Orchester
45. Chopin: Nocturne No.8 in D-Flat Major, Op.27 No.2
46. Chopin: Etude No.17 in E Minor, Op.25 No.5
47. Chopin: Etude No.5 in G-Flat Major, Op.10 No.5

February 22, 1950
Victoria Hall, Geneva

48. Schumann: Piano Concerto in A Minor, Op.54
with Ernest Ansermet, Orchestre de la Suisse Romande

July 3-12, 1950
Studio 2, Radio Geneve

Chopin: Fourteen Waltzes
49. No.4 in F Major, Op.34 No.3 (July 9)
50. No.5 in A-Flat Major, Op.42 (July 11)
51. No.6 in D-Flat Major, Op.64 No.1 (July 6)
52. No.9 in A-Flat Major, Op.69 No.1 (July 3)
53. No.7 in C-Sharp Minor, Op.64 No.2 (July 3)
54. No.11 in G-Flat Major, Op.70 No.1 (July 3)
55. No.10 in B Minor, Op.69 No.2 (July 4)
56. No.14 in E Minor, Op. posth (July 12)
57. No.3 in A Minor, Op.34 No.2 (July 4)
58. No.8 in A-Flat Major, Op.64 No.3 (July 6)
59. No.12 in F Minor, Op.70 No.2 (July 5 and 9)
60. No.13 in D-Flat Major, Op.70 No.3 (July 9)
61. No.1 in E-Flat Major, Op.18 (July 9)
62. No.2 in A-Flat Major, Op.34 No.1 (July 8 )

July 6, 1950
Studio 2, Radio Geneve

63. Bach-Kempff: Siciliano

July 9, 1950
Studio 2, Radio Geneve

64. Bach: Partita No.1 in B-Flat Major, BWV 825
65. Mozart: Piano Sonata No.8 in A Minor, K 310

July 10, 1950
Studio 2, Radio Geneve

66. Bach-Busoni: Chorale Prelude, “Nun komm’, der Heiden Heiland”
67: Bach-Busoni: Chorale Prelude, “Ich ruf’ zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ”
68. Bach-Hess: Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring

July 11, 1950
Studio 2, Radio Geneve

69. Chopin: Mazurka No.32 in C-Sharp Minor, Op.50 No.3

July 27, 1950
Radio Geneve, Geneva

70. Interview with Francois Magnenat
71. Chopin: Waltz No.3 in A Minor, Op.34 No.2
72. Bach-Hess: Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring (excerpt)
73. Bach-Busoni: “Ich ruf’ zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ”

August 23, 1950
Kunsthaus, Lucerne

74. Interview with Henri Jaton
75. Mozart: Piano Concerto No.21 in C Major, K.467
with Herbert von Karajan, Orchester der Festspiele Luzern

September 16, 1950
Salle du Parlement, Besancon

76. Bach: Partita No.1 in B-Flat Major, BWV 825
77. Mozart: Piano Sonata No.8 in A Minor, K 310
78. Schubert: Impromptu No.3 in G-Flat Major, D.899 No.3
79. Schubert: Impromptu No.2 in E-Flat Major, D.899 No.2
Chopin: 13 Waltzes
80. No.5 in A-Flat Major, Op.42
81. No.6 in D-Flat Major, Op.64 No.1
82. No.9 in A-Flat Major, Op.69 No.1
83. No.7 in C-Sharp Minor, Op.64 No.2
84. No.11 in G-Flat Major, Op.70 No.1
85. No.10 in B Minor, Op.69 No.2
86. No.14 in E Minor, Op.posth
87. No.3 in A Minor, Op.34 No.2
88. No.4 in F Major, Op.34 No.3
89. No.12 in F Minor, Op.70 No.2
90. No.13 in D-Flat Major, Op.70 No.3
91. No.8 in A-Flat Major, Op.64 No.3
92. No.1 in E-Flat Major, Op.18

September 29, 1950
Radio Geneve, Geneva

93. Interview with Franz Walter
Note: The performance that Lipatti gave after the interview of the Bach-Kempff ‘Siciliano’ has not been located

The Bach-Busoni D Minor Concerto

Dinu Lipatti is justly celebrated for his performances of Bach. He had a seemingly unique capacity to vary the attack used by different fingers even within the same hand so that the voicing of each line was thoroughly consistent. Contrapuntal parts therefore sounded as though they were being played by different instruments, each line sounding like an individual voice with its own unique timbre, together highlighting the structure of the score in stunning detail while infusing it with warmth and life.

Lipatti himself spoke to Bach’s music being the closest to his heart, and it is most unfortunate that he did not record more than his miraculous take of the B-Flat Partita and four transcriptions. He was in fact scheduled to commit to disc four Preludes and Fugues from the Well-Tempered Clavier at the Geneva sessions in July 1950 that produced the aforementioned recordings, but he sent the engineers home two days early, ostensibly because he wanted to give the EMI technicians a break, but most likely because he himself was exhausted from the ordeal of 10 days of recording as the temporary effects of the cortisone being used to treat his Hodgkin’s Disease started to fade.

There are few fans of Lipatti’s playing who would not wish for more recordings of him playing Bach, and there have been tantalizing leads. A rather disturbing one is the story that Lipatti’s biographer Grigore Bargauanu was at a Swiss radio station where the card catalogue showed that a studio-made disc of a Prelude and Fugue was in the collection, but when he and the archivist went to get it, it was missing from the stacks.

In 1973, Opus Records released an LP of Lipatti performing the Bach D Minor Concerto with the Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orchestra conducted by Eduard van Beinum on October 2, 1947. The flip-side of the disc was Lipatti’s 1937 recording with Nadia Boulanger and her troupe of singers of Brahms’ Liebeslieder Waltzes Op.52, which had never been issued in LP format by EMI. No notes indicated the provenance of the live recording.

Opus label releases were produced by the International Piano Archives, which was run by Gregor Benko, who informed me that he had obtained the tape of the performance in an exchange with a Swiss collector by the name of Marc Fleury. At the time that they traded tapes (though the Bach was originally recorded on acetates), Benko was unaware of the fact that Lipatti had played the Ravel G Major Concerto at the same concert (Lipatti had in fact played the same program on both October 1 and 2). He lost touch with Fleury and so it is unknown if the Ravel performance also survived in his collection – the prospect of that recording existing, given Lipatti’s exceptional commercial disc of Ravel’s Alborada del Gracioso, is an exciting one. Despite the Dutch radio archives having a remarkable collection of their concert history preserved on disc, even the Bach seems not to exist in their collection.

The Bach Concerto recording itself is one of the most unusual Lipatti recordings to have surfaced, as it reveals aspects of Lipatti’s artistry that are inconsistent with how he is usually perceived. Lipatti is often held up as a pianist who held the score as sacrosanct, despite the fact that he made changes to the score in his Alborada disc and his concert performance of Schubert’s E-Flat Impromptu. He himself stated that fidelity to the Urspirit of a score, as opposed to the Urtext, was his priority: “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,” he wrote in notes for a planned Interpretation course to be co-presented with Nadia Boulanger. “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…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.”

His approach to the D Minor Concerto is so radically unconventional that it paints Lipatti as more of a firebrand than his somewhat staid reputation as a literalist and pianist of ‘purity’ might indicate. Lipatti uses some of the variants in Busoni’s edition of the concerto, among them passages where arpeggios occupy two octaves instead of one (or answer in a higher octave a statement in a lower one) and bass register notes are played lower than Bach wrote them. Lipatti’s rhythm is remarkably steady and his accenting pronounced, though the emphasis never breaks the line. His articulation is varied, he is more liberal with the pedal and the highlighting of left-hand figurations, and he makes some rather dramatic ritardandos.

The first movement is among the most fascinating performances that exist by Lipatti, with a number of passages in particular demonstrating his unusual conception of this work. The section from 5:22 to 5:44, where arpeggios are extended and played with the most delightful inner rhythmic pulse, is magnificent. Perhaps the most incredible moment begins at 6:39, where he starts a phenomenally graduated decrescendo that brings the audience to complete silence as he highlights a downward chromatic progression, creating a melting effect until his playing goes down to a whisper at 7:02 – miraculous.

This concert recording captures Lipatti’s playing at its peak (he was in relatively good health) and it is an important part of his discography. Despite its early appearance on IPA’s Opus Records label and subsequent releases on Jecklin and Turnabout/Vox, EMI did not issue the recording as part of Lipatti’s official discography. They had explored the possibility in 1981 but, as they often did, shied away from negotiations with orchestras and conductors signed to other labels. Finally in the year 2000, when they had realized that they had not prepared a commemorative release for the 50th anniversary of the pianist’s death, they accepted a proposal I had initially made in 1991 to release this performance with the Liszt E-Flat and Bartok Third Concertos. The disc was issued early in 2001 and these three concerto performances are now part of Lipatti’s official EMI discography.

Let us continue to hope that the recording of the Ravel G Major Concerto will surface, as it will surely be a stunning performance that also paints a different portrait of Lipatti’s pianism and interpretative genius.

La Leggierezza

Dinu Lipatti signed his contract with the Columbia label of EMI in January 1946, and at his first session at a studio in Zurich that July he recorded three works: Chopin’s Waltz in A-Flat Op.34 No.1, Liszt’s Sonetto del Petrarca No.104, and Liszt’s La Leggierezza. (The exact date of the session is unknown: Lipatti wrote prior to the session that he was scheduled to make a series of recordings from July 4 to 6, but only recorded these 3 titles and so likely it took place on one of these days.) Columbia was experimenting with a new recording material, and the masters which were pressed warped while in transit to London. Engineers attempted to press the records, but they were unsalvageable. While Lipatti would once again record the Chopin Waltz – as a filler for the Grieg Concerto – and the Sonetto del Petrarca, both on September 24, 1947 at London’s Abbey Road Studio No.3, he did not make another attempt at La Leggierezza. While pitch-correcting technology could be used today to repair the damage to the 1946 recordings, no test pressings have been found and the record pressing master stampers have been destroyed. The recording sheet reproduced here lists October 15, 1946 as the date for a recording made at Abbey Road, but this is incorrect (as the handwritten note ‘Recorded in Switzerland’ indicates) and is undoubtedly the date of the attempted pressing of the disc.

Fast-forward to 1990. I was in London hoping to find more Lipatti recordings and paid a visit to the National Sound Archive, which was then located on Exhibition Road in Kensington. I searched through their card catalogue, which is what one did in the days before the internet, but there was nothing under Lipatti. I then had a hunch to search through the composers he’d performed just in case something was not properly cross-referenced – and sure enough… under Liszt, there was listed a recording on tape 101W of Dinu Lipatti playing La Leggierezza. It said that it had been recorded from a BBC broadcast by one D Steynor and obtained by the British Institute of Recorded Sound on October 21, 1958. I requested to listen to the tape, and was flabbergasted by the playing. The opening few measures were missing and there was a big pitch fluctuation near the beginning of the recording, but other than that and the somewhat restricted tonal range, one could clearly hear Lipatti’s unique pianism.

A couple of years later when I returned to London, I met with the staff to discuss the recording. As Werner Unger of archiphon records and I were formulating plans to obtain and release some lost Lipatti recordings, we wanted to discuss the possibility of obtaining a copy of the tape. The staff of the NSA were very accommodating, and we listened to the recording together. Their engineers, with their incredibly trained ears, could recognize the acoustic as being a BBC studio, whereas I had thought this might still be a broadcast of a test pressing of the unpublished EMI recording. Later research revealed that Lipatti did in fact broadcast the work from the BBC studios on September 25, 1947. The staff at the National Sound Archive said that if we could obtain permission from the BBC, they would be able to copy us the tape (we needed to show that the broadcast took place before July 1957 – something that was easy since Lipatti died in 1950). Unger handled that side of things, and the BBC were – rather surprisingly, given the stories that I’d heard – gracious not only in allowing us to have a copy of the NSA’s tape but also in consenting to its commercial release. In late 1994 we issued it on the archiphon CD set ‘Les Inédits’, its only authorized CD release to date.

The playing in this performance is phenomenal, and there are a few nuances that are particularly worth noting. Throughout the work, the bassline is remarkably clear, something that all Romantic pianists did in their playing – scores did not indicate that a line in the bass with step-wise progression should be highlighted because everyone at the time knew that it should be done. At 1:13 to 1:17, Lipatti voices the chords in the right hand such that the atonal quality of the harmonies stand out, highlighting the avant-garde nature of Liszt’s writing. In the section beginning at 2:52, as Lipatti moves from ascending to descending runs, he accelerates as he ‘goes around the corner’, so to speak, which produces a wonderfully ‘light’ effect. And then at 3:41-3:44, where every pianist that I’ve heard slows down and plays a decrescendo, Lipatti does the exact opposite, speeding up and crashing into a fortissimo in a grand, heroic gesture.

While we can lament the lack of more Liszt recordings by Lipatti – if only he’d played the Sonata! – we do have a greater idea of his approach to this great composer through the recordings that have come to light, among them an early test recording of Gnomenreigen, a 1947 concert recording of the First Concerto, and this current recording. (There will be other posts to follow on Gnomenreigen and the First Concerto.) We can keep our hopes alive that a broadcast recording of Liszt’s Second Concerto, which he played in concert many times, will one day surface. In the meantime, enjoy the one BBC broadcast of Dinu Lipatti that has come to light: the September 25, 1947 broadcast of Liszt’s La Leggierezza.