Dinu Lipatti’s World:
Between Romanian Roots and Modern European Musical Language

Biography / Writings / Studies

This paper is only the beginning of a research on Lipatti’s oeuvre. There are of course several possible ways to compile a catalogue of his compositions. The one I suggest below follows a rather unusual criterion, that of the works’ dedicatees. Such a choice is justified by the fact that the dedications inevitably follow both a chronology of the relationships between Lipatti and the important figures populating his life (such as his teachers) and a succession of his musical and extra-musical pursuits. Here are the categories I propose:

Works dedicated to family members


To his mother, Ana Lipatti


First essays (Le printemps, Chanson pour grand-mère, Dorelina, Triste separation, Brats marching, Regrets,, Sweet memory, A ma bonne Surcea)

Sensation for voice and piano, on a poem by Rimbaud

To his father

Preludio, chorale e fuga in modo antico per tutti arche, op. 10

To his wife, Madeleine Lipatti

Three dances for two pianos

Fantasie for piano, op. 8

L’Amoureuse (on a poem by Paul Eluard) for voice and piano

Works dedicated to his teachers

À Monsieur Mihail Jora: Sonatine for violin and piano, op. 1

À mon Maître Michel Jora: Nocturne for piano

(Influenced by, or as a tribute to, Jora): symphonic suite Les tziganes and the Sonatina for the left hand

Fräulein Florica Musicesco gewidmet: Concertino en style classique for piano and chamber orchestra, op. 3


À mon Maître Alfred Cortot: Fantasie for violin, cello and piano

À mon Maître Charles Münch: Symphonie concertante for two pianos and strings, op. 5

À Mlle Nadia Boulanger: Concerto for organ and piano

Works dedicated to performers

À Monsieur Rogert Cortet: Wind Quintet, Introduction and Allegro for solo flute

À Clara Haskil: Three French nocturnes for piano, op. 6

À Hugues Cuénod: Five songs on verses by Paul Verlaine for tenor and piano, op. 9

Dédiées au Maître Ernest Ansermet: Dances roumaines for piano and orchestra

À Paul Sacher: Aubade for flute, oboe, clarinet and bassoon

Works dedicated to his friends


Dédiée à Șoarec et Co., avec ma solennelle bénédiction : Premiere Improvisation (sur commande

À Monsieur Corneliu Bedițeanu (George Enescu’s secretary): Allegro  for solo violin, transcription of the Allegro for solo flute

À Marie Sarasin (Dr. Raymond Sarasin’s sister): Capitale de la douleur (on a poem by Paul Eluard) for voice and piano

À Germaine de Narros: Les pas (on a poem by  Paul Valéry) for voice and piano

À Henri Dubois-Ferrière: La marche d’Henri

Works without a dedicatee

Sonata for solo piano, Les tziganes, Wind Quintet (unfinished), Allegro for clarinet and bassoon, Toccata for chamber orchestra (unfinished), Romantic sonata in D major for piano (unfinished), Sonatina for the left hand, Dances roumaines for two pianos


Without organising Lipatti’s work into specific stages, authors Dragoș Tănăsescu and Grigore Bărgăuanu systematize the main directions they observed in the composer’s works. We can thus speak about a Neo-romantic tendency (in some of his piano pieces), a more distinct Romanian-oriented approach (adopted while under the guidance of his teacher Mihail Jora), a Neoclassical line (as influenced by Bach’s music and by the pieces he comes in contact with through his Parisian experience) and a modern, European attitude, in keeping with his contemporaries Stravinsky and Bartók among others.

The works I will focus on are representative of a first, Romanian-oriented period in Dinu Lipatti’s oeuvre, and of a certain creative maturity, consequence of his studies in Paris. I will thus draw a parallel between the Sonatina for violin and piano and the Concerto for organ and piano in the light of the relationship Lipatti had with the distinguished musicians he dedicated these works to, Mihail Jora and Nadia Boulanger. 

Mihail Jora is the dedicatee of two of Lipatti’s works, the Sonatina  for violin and piano and the Nocturne on a Moldavian theme, while the professor’s influence continues in the symphonic suite Les tziganes and in the Sonatina for the left hand. Aged seven, Lipatti begins studying with Mihail Jora, whose pedagogy is known to us through the testimonies of his former students. Jora was the "professor-cum-academy”; he taught his students all theoretical fields of study – harmony, counterpoint, ear training, using them afterwards, of course, in the actual process of composition. Until his leaving the country at seventeen, Dinu was under the permanent influence of this distinguished professor which, as easily noticeable from the analysis of the works written between the wars, synthetises two directions: the European one (the French Impressionism, Bartók’s and Stravinsky’s language, and an exacerbation of chromaticism as stemming from the German Post-romanticism) and the Romanian one (as seen from the use of certain folk elements). I selected some of the requirements that Monsieur Jora had vis-à-vis his students, so as to be able to study the way Lipatti applied them in what is still thought to be a school work. Dinu was only sixteen when he wrote this Sonatinafor violin and piano which would win him the second prize at the George Enescu National Composition Competition in 1933 as well as Paul Dukas’ praise ("the second movement proves a mature structure and a solid design”).

The "Mihail Jora School” insisted:

  1. That harmonic progression and counterpoint construction sound musical.
  2. That monotony of quadrature and symmetry be avoided, following the Classical model.
  3. That works be both endowed with aural efficiency and easy to perform.
  4. That musical expression be unsophisticated, at least during the learning phase.
  5. That rhythm be diverse.
  6. That melodic sequences be shortened, hidden or even eliminated.
  7. That works display the diatonic side of Romanian folklore (Jora was against the augmented second, used at one point in excess, and preferred folk music as made by peasants, and not by fiddlers.

Equally, Jora asked from his students a serious, purposeful attitude, a constant, permanent study, a musical ear as close to perfection as possible, a gift for writing melodious music. The maestro was exacting: his students at the Conservatoire went to the exams feeling more than nervous, their tension surpassing even that that the pianists playing in front of Florica Muzicescu experimented. Dinu Lipatti’s exceptional musical qualities, doubled by his breeding, allowed him to "survive” the classes with these two mentors and to form relationships of profound emotion and reciprocal respect (even if he sometimes came back from his lessons with Miss Muzicescu with eyes brimming with tears…).

Dinu Lipatti structures this school Sonatinaobserving, but not blindly following, his maestro’s observations. We find here elements which Jora seemingly didn’t greatly approve of, even though the work’s main directions respect his teacher’s guidelines.

TheSonatina has two movements, the first one conforming to the sonata form, the second one, a theme and variations.

The theme of the first movement, Allegro moderato, is diatonic, in the e minor natural scale (equivalent of the Aeolian mode). The melody, gradual and mixed, is interrupted only by leaps of thirds. Its range is of a tenth and the culmination is situated on the subtonic (re). The phrase shaping is of particular interest, as it exhibits a divergence of metrical and melodic accents (a manner of avoiding symmetry and quadrature just as Jora asked). Another interesting element is the theme, built on violin - piano unison, something likely "learned” from George Enescu, whose Suite no. 1 op. 9 must have been familiar to him.

The theme to be varied in the second movement, Andantino, reprises almost the same characteristics as the one featured in the first movement: the gradual melody (exhibiting some wider leaps of descending fourths and fifths), the Aeolian mode on mi, the range of a tenth, the diatonic profile of the theme proposed simultaneously by the violin and the chromaticised piano accompaniment. The syntax Lipatti chose here is homophonic, presenting a carol-like melody on the violin and chordal columns on the piano. The variations display the characteristic rhythms of the hora (a Romanian folk dance) and the conclusion brings back the first themes from the first movement in reversed order, thus endowing the work with a cyclical, homogenous character.