To London to see ten seconds of cinema: the only footage we have (so far) of Dinu Lipatti, unearthed last year from a private library. Ten delightful seconds filmed in Lucerne, 1947, three years before his death. Lipatti is in the company of Madeleine, his fiancee, and Furtwängler, Schwarzkopf, Sacher, Hindemith, others. It was wonderful to see (in my imagination) Lipatti the person, an ordinary bloke, more than discographic deity or a musical Methuselah (who died so young, aged 33). I discovered this evening also that he left his hat at the Wigmore Hall after a recital there, that he wore glasses (always he took them off for the camera!), and that – truly fabulous, this – when not playing the piano or composing, he knitted!! But of course: the wool, polyphonous if threaded together, would have formed a satisfying and kaleidoscopic piano roll, its mechanical tic eased his pain no doubt. Although Lipatti looked relaxed, it was possible to feel the man so often racked with pain, kept alive by cortisone injection (funded by an international musical community – Stravinsky, Menuhin, Munch, others) that afforded him moments of activity, painless oases in which to record or give recitals.
The anniversary concert that followed (Lipatti was born April, 1917) was celebratory but kind of unnecessary for me: I was comatose, shell shocked by the cinema. The aged Romanian conductor, Cristian Mandeal, had the footwork of Cruyff and the stirrups and gait of Lester Piggott, but looked like an undertaker from the Co-op doing a morris dance (his trousers didn’t fit); the pianist was both a ballerina and cement mixer, but I did fancy her, cor! But the programme sort of hung like my pot-bellied uncle’s best suit that had been made for him when a svelte, young man. The Romanian Rhapsody by Enescu (Lipatti’s godfather and early mentor) was conducted as though a dog taken for a walk – in sight were lamp posts, bitches on heat and roadside delicacies. Lipatti’s own Concerto in Classical Style lost its sheen as Lipatti wasn’t doing the vamping, but had grace and tunes and was appropriate. Grieg’s Piano Concerto (a piece performed often by Lipatti, indeed his championing of it did much to help place it in the modern repertoire) slightly sparkled at times. I have no idea why the evening closed with Tchaikovsky’s Francesca Da Rimini, which for me depicts Dante on a pogo stick.
From Row K, I captured the film, a tender, samizdat morsel attached. For a man the size of a thimble, he had such broad shoulders. He didn’t get his suit at Moss Bros either.