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Concertino en style classique Op. 3* (1936) [17:49]
Sonatine for the left hand (1941) [8:40]
Piano Sonata in D minor (1932) [22:07]
Navarra (Albéniz, arr Lipatti, 1940) [5:45]
Nocturne in F sharp minor Op. 6 [4:57]
Nocturne in A minor [3:38]
Fantasie Op. 8 (1940) [30:03]
Pastorale in F, BWV 590 (J.S. Bach transc. Lipatti) [9:21]
Two arias from Was mir behagt, ist nur die muntre Jagd!
BWV 208 (J.S. Bach, tanscr. Lipatti) [7:12]
Luiza Borac (piano)
*Academy of St Martin in the Fields/Jaime Martin
rec. 23-27 April 2012, Jesus-Christus-Kirche, Berlin and 11 July
2012, St John’s Smith Square, London (Concertino)
AVIE RECORDS AV2271 [63:21 + 47:06]
It is rare to come across performances and recordings of Dinu
Lipatti’s compositions, and the last time I came across the
Sonatine in an excellent recital for the left hand
by Antoine Rebstein (see review).
Lipatti’s reputation as one of the 20th century’s
greatest pianists has unsurprisingly overshadowed his work as
a composer. No doubt encouraged and inspired by his godfather
George Enescu, in his time he trained with the best, studying
with Paul Dukas, Alfred Cortot and Nadia Boulanger while at
the École normale de musique in Paris.
With its numerous première recordings, this double disc set
from fellow Rumanian Luiza Borac is an instant reference for
Lipatti’s works for piano. Dinu Lipatti had a Bechstein piano
at his home at Fundateanca in Romania and often favoured Bechstein
instruments as a performer. Luiza Borac has recorded these solo
works on a Bechstein as a gesture towards a more faithful reproduction
of his sound as a composer, and the solo recordings certainly
have a marvellously full and musical sound.
The Concertino in Classical Style is a student work,
and is an intriguing synthesis of influences and homages, including
a clear allusion to Bach’s ‘Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring’ in
the first movement. The gorgeous Adagio molto second
movement has some of Stravinsky’s neo-classical flavour, as
do the playful Allegretto and final Allegro molto
which follow. It has to be admitted that there is a degree of
aimless wandering about in some of this music, but it certainly
is worth exploring, having many moments of great fun and making
some potent expressive points. The piano is arguably a little
too far forward in the recorded balance, but the Academy of
St Martin in the Fields plays with gusto and the work serves
as a fine introduction to Luiza Borac’s virtuoso technique and
Composed of “purely Romanian themes and with much brio”, the
Sonatina for Left Hand is given a terrific performance
by Borac, the illusion of two handed performance entirely convincing
and indeed, pretty breathtaking, the pungency of the folk music
content more emphatic than with Rebstein. The Sonata in
D minor was Lipatti’s first, written at the age of 14.
This first recording reveals a staggeringly precocious talent,
heavily into the gestures of Liszt and pianistic techniques
of Chopin and other Romantics. Strongly influenced it may be
but this goes further than pastiche, showing an ear for some
pretty sophisticated and at times even modern sounding harmonic
language. This substantial piece received a mention at the 1932
National Georges Enescu Competition for Composition, and while
one can imagine why its high-romantic bombast might have seen
it missing out on an award, it does seem remarkable that it
has taken 80 years for someone to record it.
Another first recording, Albéniz’s unfinished Navarra
was re-worked by Lipatti in 1940. The pianistic qualities of
the piece have been impressively enhanced and beefed-up somewhat,
giving it quite an orchestral feel while maintaining much of
the identity of the original. Lipatti wrote three Nocturnes
in 1939, but only the F sharp minor one has survived, with its
slinky harmonies and expressively lyrical melodic lines. The
A minor Nocturne is an earlier piece from 1937 and
more overtly folk-music derived, using as it does a Moldavian
Christmas carol – not that many of us would spot such sources.
Borac brings out all of this character in these pieces, while
also finding and exploiting their impressionistic colours.
Moving on to the second disc, and we immediately enter a seriously
different expressive atmosphere with the Fantasie Op. 8.
Mark Ainley’s booklet notes point out that this is Lipatti’s
“longest and most complex solo piano composition”, and this
is by no means hard to believe. You can sense the composer becoming
more involved and intertwined with his material in the five
movements of this masterpiece, allowing thinner textures to
speak for themselves in exploratory and often heartfelt simplicity.
There are folk-music elements and some ideas which seem to point
fairly directly towards Bartók, but this is music with intrinsic
and individual quality, filled with fascinating nuance and hardly
a note wasted. If you were yet to be convinced, this is the
one piece which makes us understand why Nadia Boulanger would
have written, “When the compositions of Dinu Lipatti are all
printed, the greatness of his gift and of his craftsmanship
will be recognised. It will become obvious that he was really
a composer… who found his pleasure and his real life in the
process, and who used the technical means of his art to create
the emotions resulting from achieved beauty.”
Once the apotheosis of the remarkable eleven-minute final Allegro
of the Fantasie has sounded there seems little else
that can be said, and the programme winds up with some lovely
transcriptions of Bach. Added poignancy is given to the Andante
cantabile of the Pastorale in F when we are told
that this was the last piece Lipatti ever played, though Luiza
Borac thankfully avoids loading the piece with extra sentimentality.
The transcriptions from Was mir behagt, ist nur die muntre
Jagd! were the last pieces Lipatti produced in 1950.
While reasonably rich in passionately youthful outings this
programme is worth every penny of its asking price, not only
for its fine recording qualities and Luiza Borac’s superb playing,
but for undiscovered gems – in particular the amazing Fantaisie,
as well as the fascinating Concertino. If your collection
has any cherished recordings by Dinu Lipatti as pianist then
you owe it to yourself to complete your picture of this legendary
musician in his most personal and potent creative work.
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