06 April 2023

P.R. Jenkins

Karajan artists: Dinu Lipatti – the musical saint

“How I envy your talent! Why must you have so much talent and I so little? Is this justice on earth?” (Clara Haskil)

Dinu Lipatti is one of the few musicians of the 20th century not only admired for his music-making but also worshipped almost like a saint till today.

He was a pianist of effortless elegance, technically infallible and musically transcendent, godson of Enescu, pupil of Cortot and Schnabel, Dukas and Stravinsky, Nadia Boulanger and Charles Münch. Lipatti only made a handful of recordings shortly after World War II, two of them with Karajan – the Schumann concerto in 1948 and Mozart’s K. 467 with the Lucerne Festival Orchestra in 1950, three months before Lipatti’s death from Hodgkin’s disease on 2 December 1950, aged only 33.

Karajan’s and Lipatti’s first encounter happened at a significant moment in Karajan’s career – his debut with the Philharmonia Orchestra in 1948. Together they recorded the Schumann concerto in the studio and performed it in concert the next day. Karajan was enthusiastic about Lipatti’s piano playing: “This wasn’t just piano playing. It was music, released from any earthly weight.”

Although there had been plans to record the first Tchaikovsky concerto, it was two years before they met again: “The most emotionally taxing concert Karajan was involved in during the summer of 1950 was in Lucerne. The first half of the concert was given over to Roussel’s Fourth Symphony and Mozart’s C major Concerto K 467. The soloist in the Mozart was Dinu Lipatti, now a dying man. Music, and the faith in the cortisone he was taking, had sustained him through a summer of intermittent but ever rarer and more wonderful music-making.” (Richard Osborne)

The two recordings of Schumann and Mozart that Lipatti and Karajan created together are among the most legendary piano recordings of all.

We’ve created playlists with Karajan and Dinu Lipatti. Listen to them here.

Richard Osborne “Karajan. A Life in Music” Chatto & Windus, London. 1998

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