Dinu Lipatti

Dinu Lipatti (March 19, 1917 – December 2, 1950) was a Romanian classical pianist and composer whose career was tragically cut short by his death from Hodgkin's disease at age 33. Despite his short career and a relatively small recorded legacy, Lipatti is considered one of the finest pianists of the 20th century.

Named Constantin by his parents, but always known as Dinu, Lipatti was born into a cultivated and musical family. His father was a violinist who had studied with Pablo de Sarasate and Carl Flesch, whilst his mother was a pianist. Young Dinu’s godfather was George Enescu, a great composer and performer who had a great influence on the life of Lipatti. He was a frail child, and his parents did not send him to school but employed tutors. His first formal piano lessons, at the age of eight, were with Mihail Jora, and at eleven Jora prepared Lipatti for entrance to the Bucharest Conservatory where he studied with Florica Musicescu. Lipatti subsequently studied under Alfred Cortot, Nadia Boulanger, Paul Dukas (composition) and Charles Munch (conducting) in Paris.

Dinu Lipatti returned to Romania in 1939. His career was interrupted by World War II, although he continued to give concerts throughout Europe, including Nazi-occupied territories. He only fled the country in 1943, via Scandinavia, to Switzerland, where at the Geneva Conservatoire he held the highest piano professorship from 1944 to 1949. He concertized widely in Europe, including Switzerland, France, Germany, Italy, Great Britain, Belgium and Holland, and his fame and popularity grew rapidly. He was also much sought after as a teacher for his masterclasses. In addition to his pianistic accomplishments, Dinu Lipatti was a composer, who wrote in a neoclassical style with French and Romanian influences.

In the last six years of his life, Dinu Lipatti was diagnosed with leukaemia. Yet his drive did not diminish and his playing never suffered. There were even plans for a concert tour in America, but relapses caused it to be cancelled. In his last year, his illness was kept at bay temporarily with a new drug, cortisone - the cost of which devoted friends like Yehudi Menuhin, Charles Munch and Stravinsky contributed no small amounts. It was during this remission that Lipatti, much against the advice of his doctors, decided to honour his concert engagement and played his final recital at Besançon on September 16, 1950. Unfortunately, the leukaemia returned; Lipatti finally succumbed and died a painful death in Geneva on December 2, 1950, at the tragically young age of 33. He is buried at the cemetery of Chêne-Bourg, an outskirt of Geneva close to the border with France, next to his wife Madeleine, a noted piano teacher.

Dinu Lipatti's playing was hailed as having reached the highest degrees in integrity and pianistic technique - which he employed in the quest for musical perfection. He was posthumously made a member of the Romanian Academy (in 1997).