CD of the Week – Dinu Lipatti
The Rumanian pianist, who died tragically young of Hodgkin’s Disease in 1950, left some of the most intuitive and penetrating Chopin interpretations that exist on record. Like Chopin’s, Lipatti’s death at 33 overlaid his image with a false frailty, his name mentioned in hospital whispers. Yehudi Menuhin said he was ‘the manifestation of a spiritual realm, resistant to all pain and suffering.’
Yet there was nothing ethereal about Lipatti who remained, to the end, a virile, robust player with a decidedly modern outlook. Between ne recital and the next, he composed in a vivacious style, more for pleasure than posterity. This exploratory double-album contains a good deal of music that has never been recorded – or enjoyed – before.
A Concertino, dated 1936, was clearly written to impress his Paris teacher Nadia Boulanger, the world’s foremost champion of Stravinsky’s neo-classical style. In it, Lipatti mimics and faintly mocks Stravinsky’s 1929 Capriccio, one of the most entertaining works of the epoch. Like an overly erudite classical DJ, Lipatti tosses in bits of Bach, Haydn, Enescu and Bartok, playing spot-the-composer with gleeful abandon. The 18-minute confection is fizzingly well played by pianist Luiza Borac and the Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields, conductor Jaime Martin, a fun piece for social occasions.
Borac, a convinced Lipatti revivalist, takes us on through a sonata, a sonatine, a nocturne and a large fantasie, each of them original and derivative in equal measure. She follows up with Lipatti’s sparkling encore transcriptions of works by Albeniz and Bach. Evangelist though she is, Borac makes no excessive claims for this music beyond its simple attractions and wilful optimism. You will feel much the happier for hearing it.
Three Mozart CDs
The Israeli pianist-director takes crisp, bright tempi in the 23rd symphony and Jeunehomme concerto with the Geneva Chamber Orchestra, following up with something called In-between. This is a world premiere of a 10-minute work for string quartet and orch by Denis Schuler, a wispy, whispery thing that tickles the ears like a night breeze before a Mozart overture as finale. Nice idea, doesn’t quite set the house alight.
The Mozart Sessions
The Austrian pianist Markus Schirmer joins Boston ensemble A Far Cry in two concertos (K414-5) and a beefed-up sonata, all adorned with his own lead-ins and cadenzas. The playing is a bit breathless and there’s an edginess to the ensemble, but ears reared on rock music might well be captivated.
The Hungarian pianist, who died young in 1976, recorded these two concertos (K453, 488) with the radio orchestra in Baden-Baden. The sound is a tad boxy and recessed but the Mozart style needs no commentary. Organic, gimmick-free, it lets the music speak for itself. He also gives a scintillating performance of the Ravel G-major concerto.
Norman Lebrecht is a regular presenter on BBC Radio 3 and a contributor to the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg and other publications. He has written 12 books about music, the most recent being Why Mahler? He hosts the blog Slipped Disc.