Dinu Lipatti (March 19 1917, Bucharest – December 2 1950, Geneva) 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.
Lipatti's career was interrupted by World War II. Although he continued to give concerts throughout Europe, including Nazi-occupied territories, he eventually fled his native Romania in 1943 and settled with his wife in Geneva, Switzerland, where he accepted the position as piano professor at the conservatory. It was at this time that the first signs of his illness emerged. At first, doctors were baffled, but in 1947 he was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Disease. As a result, his public performances became considerably less frequent after the war.
Lipatti gave his final recital, which was recorded, on 16 September 1950 in Besançon. Despite severe illness, he gave unmatched performances of Bach’s B flat major Partita, Mozart’s A minor Sonata, Schubert's G flat major and E flat major Impromptus, and thirteen of Chopin's 14 Waltzes. He excluded No. 2, which he was too exhausted to play; he offered instead Myra Hess’s transcription of Bach’s Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring. He died less than 3 months later. Lipatti is buried at the cemetery of Chêne-Bourg next to his wife Madeleine, a noted piano teacher.
Lipatti is particularly noted for his interpretations of Frédéric Chopin, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Johann Sebastian Bach, but he also made recordings of Maurice Ravel's Alborada del Gracioso, Franz Liszt, George Enescu, the Schumann Piano Concerto, and Grieg Piano Concerto. His recording of Chopin's Waltzes has remained in print since its release and has long been a favorite of many classical music-lovers.
Lipatti never recorded any music of Beethoven. It is a common misconception, however, that Lipatti did not perform Beethoven's music until late in his career. In fact, Lipatti had performed the Emperor Concerto in Bucharest twice during the 1940-41 season, and even stood ready to record it for EMI in 1949. Thus, an internal memo from Lipatti's recording producer, Walter Legge, dated February 23, 1948 states that "Lipatti ha[d] his heart set on doing a Beethoven Concerto in 1949" and nominates the Emperor Concerto given that Lipatti had already performed it. Similarly, Beethoven's Waldstein Sonata had been a fixture of Lipatti's repertoire since 1935.
A recording of Chopin's First Piano Concerto, originally released under Lipatti's name, and said to have been a recording of a live performance in Switzerland in May 1948, proved not to be his contribution at all — in 1981, it emerged that the soloist on this recording was in fact a Polish pianist (and a fellow Cortot pupil), Halina Czerny-Stefanska (The winner of 4th Chopin International Piano Competition) playing with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra under Vaclav Smetacek. However, later on, an authentic recording by Lipatti of the Chopin Concerto was found.