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Radu Lupu, 1945-2022

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The superlative Romanian pianist Radu Lupu died April 17, in Switzerland, following long illness. He was 76. In his 20s, after winning several of the major competitions of the later 1960s, Radu Lupu began an international career with intensely focused recordings of repertory — late Brahms, “late” Schubert — which was not then at all overplayed.

Unlike the case with most others of his cohort, everything Lupu produced was imbued with a grave, long thought-about stillness and deep intention. It sounded unshowy and largely straightforward, at least this repertory, but also was above all quite consciously colored: Lupu felt that tone production was a “matching process for which [one] practices” and the physical contact of the keyboard was “a very individual thing determined by the color or timbre you hear and try to get, the piece you are playing, the phrase.” (His teachers had taught Lipatti and Richter.)

Beethoven in Lupu’s hands sometimes could come off as overinflected and Mozart fussed, and Lupu did not offer as much Chopin as others, but in Schubert, Schumann, and Brahms the purity and the control struck (sometimes thunderstruck) listeners, judges, jaded reviewers, and fellow pianists alike. After one recital NY Times critic Allen Hughes pointed out something which I myself found to hold for Lupu’s recordings as well: it was as though he “were employing some sort of alchemy to work a spell over everyone. That, indeed, is just about what he did, for he has that mysterious something that goes beyond technique, erudition and general musicality to reach into the sensibilities of listeners.”

 

 

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5 Comments [leave a civil comment (others will be removed) and please disclose relevant affiliations]

  1. I still remember a wonderful BSO performance (in 1990!) of the Beethoven Third Concerto by Lupu and conductor Stanislaw Skrowaczewski. Richard Dyer, reviewing in the Boston Globe, described “marvels of dreamy introspection” as well as “dash and zest” and “rollicking humor” in the playing.

    The concert also included a memorable performance of the “Eroica”.

    Comment by George Hungerford — April 20, 2022 at 12:44 pm

  2. I didn’t hear that concert but I did hear Lupu play Mozart K. 456 (too seldom heard and quite wonderful) with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra at Symphony Hall. Memorable indeed, about thirty years ago.

    Comment by Mark DeVoto — April 21, 2022 at 7:06 pm

  3. I’ve been fortunate enough to have heard Lupu play more than a dozen times. The first was in Carnegie Hall in 1967 — a recital that included the “Appassionata” and Chopin’s G Minor Ballade and the last time, fifty years later, in Symphony Hall in 2017 (Mozart’s C Minor Concerto). He was always wonderful and sometimes even more than that. His sound had a warmth so palpable that it seemed that I could reach out and touch it.

    Comment by steve wigler — April 24, 2022 at 2:12 am

  4. I’ve been fortunate enough to have heard Lupu play more than a dozen times. The first was in Carnegie Hall in 1967 — a recital that included the “Appassionata” and Chopin’s G Minor Ballade and the last time, fifty years later, in Symphony Hall in 2017 (Mozart’s C Minor Concerto). He was always wonderful and sometimes even more than that. His sound had a warmth so palpable that it seemed that I could reach out and touch it.

    Comment by steve wigler — April 24, 2022 at 2:18 am

  5. Shortly after Lupu won the gold medal at the Cliburn Competition, he appeared on a Sunday morning TV broadcast in New York, playing a Schubert Sonata. In those days, to keep control over the TV so my kids wouldn’t watch too much, I had only a small black & white set which I kept in the basement of my house. I was watching the broadcast, and listening over the TV’s tinny little speaker. After a while I was surprised to find myself in tears.
    I also remember another Schubert Sonata, at Carnegie Hall, when I realized I felt as though I was eavesdropping on something very private and personal. This was Lupu’s ability, to make music in his unique and meaningful way.

    Comment by Leslie Gerber — May 5, 2022 at 10:30 am

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