Dinu Lipatti Plays Schubert

Dinu Lipatti was born in 1917 and died too early at age 33 after a seven year struggle with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Mark Ainley writes about the Prince of Pianists.

Lipatti’s pianism is remarkable in how it expresses profound truth with utter simplicity, and is characterized by the crystalline clarity with which both structure and character are revealed. His interpretations go beyond the limited framework of the piano with his flawless command of pianistic technique – not simply digital accuracy but purity of tone regardless of the dynamics (his range was enormous), crisp precision of articulation, accenting without distortion of the melodic line, steadiness of rhythmic pulse, clarity of texture in voicing, and subtlety and timing of pedaling. That melodic lines are so deftly sculpted and presented in such stark relief is due to his ability to vary the attack used by different fingers, even within the same hand. The voicing of all lines is thus thoroughly consistent, and inner voices do not distract from the main subject; each line becomes an individual voice with its own unique timbre, together forming a choir of interdependent entities, each weaving its pattern in a tapestry of exquisite complexity.

His playing is immaculate – the balance, timing, and significance of every phrase, nuance, and harmonic progression has been considered and mastered, yet his performances exhibit warmth and passion and are free of the air of academic over-analysis. He presents each work under his fingers with such disarming simplicity that the music seems to be speaking freely through him, as though he were a receiver through which the composer’s intended message (of which the text is but a shadow) were being transmitted from the source of its inspiration – hence one French critic’s comment that he “heard Chopin himself interpreting his Sonata in B minor”. This does not mean that he was a literalist, however, and examples abound of changes he made to the text. He spoke, however, of the greater importance of the “Ur-spirit” as opposed to the Urtext, often telling his students that “if you are well brought-up, you can put your feet on the table and not offend anyone.”

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