Dinu Lipatti was a Romanian classical pianist and composer whose career was tragically cut short by his death from Hodgkin's disease at age 33. Despite his short career and a relatively small recorded legacy, Lipatti is considered one of the finest pianists of the 20th century.
Lipatti was born in Bucharest into a musical family: his father was a violinist, his mother a pianist, and his godfather was the violinist and composer George Enescu. He studied at the Gheorghe Lazăr High School, and finished second at the 1934 Vienna International Piano Competition, which led to Alfred Cortot, who thought Lipatti should have won, resigning from the jury in protest. Lipatti subsequently studied in Paris under Cortot, Nadia Boulanger (with whom he recorded some of Johannes Brahms's Waltzes Op. 39), Paul Dukas (composition) and Charles Münch (conducting).
Lipatti's career was interrupted by World War II. Although he continued to give concerts throughout Europe, including Nazi-occupied territories, he eventually fled his native Romania in 1943 and settled with his wife in Geneva, Switzerland, where he accepted the position as piano professor at the conservatory. It was at this time that the first signs of his illness emerged. At first, doctors were baffled, but in 1947 he was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Disease. As a result, his public performances became considerably less frequent after the war.
Lipatti gave his final recital, which was recorded, on 16 September 1950 in Besançon, France. Despite severe illness, he gave unmatched performances of Bach’s B flat major Partita, Mozart’s A minor Sonata, Schubert's G flat major and E flat major Impromptus, and thirteen of Chopin's 14 Waltzes. He excluded No. 2, which he was too exhausted to play; he offered instead Myra Hess’s transcription of Bach’s Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring. He died less than 3 months later, in Geneva. Lipatti is buried at the cemetery of Chêne-Bourg next to his wife Madeleine, a noted piano teacher.
An appreciation of Lipatti
Published in The Daily Telegraph in March 2017
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