Dinu Lipatti – Contributions to the Solo Piano Music Literature

Of an otherworldly level in terms of difficulty, the lipattian piano writing makes use of the most advanced Romantic-modern acquisitions, even if the polyphonisation of the discourse, allocating several distinct rhythms and timbres to a single hand, is an indicator that these will be not just some other easy pieces to play.

Biography / Writings / Studies

During his lifetime, Dinu Lipatti won the day not just as a pianist, but as a composer as well. He played his own works numerous times, while on tour, and they have also been lovingly and attentively performed by artists such as George Enescu, Mihail Jora, George Georgescu, Ernest Ansermet, Clara Haskil, Walter Gieseking, Lola Bobescu or Maria Fotino (the following generations, it must be said, avoided them, because, or mostly because, of a promotion of his scores up until now rather precarious, which served only to raise an even thicker wall between performers and the Lipattian oeuvre).

Dinu Lipatti’s music proves that the artist had organically assimilated the European artistic values from the position, manifest in the greater part of his output, of a Romanian composer. As well, the neat format of his manuscripts fully conforms to the pianist’s, and the man’s, structural tendency towards clarity and order. All this joins forces in coagulating the image of an unostentatious modernity – and one of a profounder degree than it might first seem.

The pendant of piano solo works stand for the steps which describe, firstly, an upwards-going slope in the fashioning of expressive means and in the transmitting of a content as profound and as nuanced as possible. The Fantasie op. 8is the fulfilment of this quest; with this monumental aural discourse, some thirty minutes-long, Lipatti attempts a bold synthesis of distinct styles, forms and composing techniques. The instrumental writing evolved from the suggestion of an orchestral reduction to an ample, intensely polyphonic, piano-dedicated writing of a "detached” structure. The Fantasie op. 8 is, in this respect as well, a synthesis, to which will follow an ever more intensified economy of means and a marked purification of the scholarly discourse united with a taking into account of accessibility, manifest from the Sonatine for the left hand onwards.

Lipatti’s solo piano works paint the (almost complete) picture of his creative pursuits and, in particular, his creative findings. Thus, they become the expression of a well-controlled composing technique, of élans censored, on diverse degrees, by rationality, of a stylistic palette which conjoins or alternates Neo-romanticism, Impressionism, Expressionism and, last but not least, the Enescian ideation contained in the syntagm "in Romanian folk character” with the singular use of heterophony. The more and more extended freedom of homophonic and polyphonic treatment progressively aspires towards a linearism of voices (the resultant of which was the attempt to coagulate modalism and polytonalism) grafted on an inner Classical, apollonian structure. Such a synthesis’ fruition could have very well turn out to be the means of drafting an important, particular chapter in the history of Romanian music. All this pleads in favour of a composer’s voice whose expression was prophetically described, in 1941, by Mihail Jora: "Dinu Lipatti is still looking for his own personal style. His great talent is incessantly troubled by the need to find a new way of saying old things. In the middle of his evolutionary process, he changes his expression from one work to another, but we are sure that it will soon, and of a crucial manner, crystalize.”

Lipatti wrote his first piano masterpiece when he was twenty years and a half.  A happy conjuncture met a time of grace where inspiration paired with a superb technical structure bearing proof of the years of Parisian apprenticeship which had followed those lived - and lived to the full - around maestro Jora (it is actually to his tutor in Bucharest that this jewel of Romanian piano music is dedicated). In less than three minutes, the music paints a lyrical tableau which culminates, in terms of tension and dynamics, in the median section, and which condenses a passing, yet highly dense image of expression and aural events on both axes of coordinates. The maximum efficiency use of aural time and space coexist with a permanent feeling of absolute unaffectedness. The a minor context, which opens the work in the same mood as Enescu’s third sonata "in Romanian folk character” had done, remains, even if the composer abandons almost completely it after five bars, emblematic for the ethos of the entire work. An excellent choice for an encore, it requires that the performer have a complete equality and control of fingers, a great variety of touch and a clear accentuating of the distinct aural levels contained in the writing allotted to the same hand. All this are the attributes of the pianistics of the future, such as pianist-composer Lipatti had envisioned.

Fruit of the year 1939, the Nocturne in F sharp minor, dedicated to Clara Haskill, stands, through its more hermetical language of an almost austere sobriety where the rhythmic ostinato coexists, by means of compensation, with the harmonic richness, the linear polyphony and a phrasing independent of bar lines, somewhat apart. The subtleties of the musical language manifest themselves especially in the microstructures in root position and in inversions combined with new ones, as well as in the presence of repetitiveness on two distinct levels. The format of the manuscript generates an entity where stylistic interferences harder to categorize melt. In fact, the Nocturne presents an artful symbiosis of the nobility and of the visionary attitude of French Post-romanticism as stemming from Franck and of procedures characteristic to Neoclassical Stravinsky. The general image is that of a sober confession which, in order to be able to be properly given, necessitates, it too, a complete timbral independence of fingers to the standards of the multiple levels the work’s format calls for. The Nocturne thus proves itself to be a true school of differentiated touch and of colour play, simultaneously revealing a natural flow of the melody which expresses, here too, an inspiration controlled, more or less visibly, by reason.

A year before composing his Sonatina for the left hand, Dinu Lipatti imagines a monumental work which becomes his most ambitious compositional project. The Fantasie op. 8, put together at Fundățeanca in the spring of 1940, in fact modifies the perspective from which his entire oeuvre is to be judged. The scholarly format and the emotional content make this score a revelation which will compensate, in a certain measure, the absence, in the Romanian musical patrimony, of Enescu’s second piano sonata. The general impression that the work’s audition creates defies eclecticism, and this is because the motifs, all organically linked, altogether justify this balanced aggregate where Sonata and Suite find each other in an essentially cyclic discourse, with a wide diapason of musical-poetic characters. The success of this project, not entirely lacking in enigmas, strongly legitimises a vigorous vocation in composition.

(English version by Maria Monica Bojin)


Bârgăuanu, Grigore and Tănăsescu, Dragoș: Dinu Lipatti, Ed. Muzicală, București, 2000
X X X: „Dinu Lipatti – Our Contemporary”, The Journal of the International "Dinu Lipatti” Symposium, [1st edition], 1995, The National Comission for UNESCO of Romania, Bucharest, 1996