THE LAST RECITAL
DINU LIPATTI, Piano
This is the musical equivalent of Randy Pausch’s The Last Lecture, the final recital given by the legendary Romanian pianist Dinu Lipatti (1917-1950) in
on Besancon, France 16
September 1950. He died less than three months later from Hodgkin’s
Disease. This recording taken from a radio broadcast includes two brief
snatches of him playing improvised arpeggios, modulating to the key of the work
to be performed. This curious practice was relatively common in the first half
of the 20th century, and has all but completely disappeared. He does
so before Bach’s Partita No.1 and
Mozart’s Sonata in A minor (K.310),
performances of laser-like clarity and robust stature belying his ill health.
Two Schubert Impromptus (G flat and E flat major) and Chopin’s Waltzes follow. These are played in his own chosen sequence, beginning with the Waltz in A flat major (Op.42). There are wrong notes along the way but Lipatti’s sheer vitality and lust for life lift these miraculous readings to an exalted level. He played 13 waltzes (out of 14), and too exhausted to finish off with the flamboyant A flat major Waltz Op.34 No.1, he substituted it with the Bach-Hess Jesu, Joy Of Man’s Desiring. Unfortunately that was not recorded for posterity. Instead a studio recording of that same waltz from two months before has been included to complete the set. This is a life-affirming document that demonstrates that music has the ability of touching hearts from beyond the grave.
THE BUTTERFLY LOVERS
CHEN JIE, Piano
The title is not a misprint.
Asia’s most popular violin
concerto, The Butterfly Lovers by
Chen Gang and He Zhanhao, has indeed been transcribed as a virtuoso piano
concerto. This is not the first recording in its piano guise, having previously
being premiered and recorded by the late Chinese pianist Hsu Fei Ping. To Chen
Gang’s credit, his transcription is very idiomatic as it employs pianistic
capabilities to good effect. All the familiar music is retained. While the solo
part is beefed up to include heavy chords, octave passages and added
dissonances, there are also some alterations to the orchestration.
One does not miss the violin, even if the
opera vocal inflexions
and portamenti (sliding pitches) on
strings do not come through as poignantly on the piano. An outcome is the
shadow of the Yellow River Piano Concerto
looming large through its 27 minutes. Like the inseparable lovers Liang Shanbo
and Zhu Yingtai themselves, the coupling is none other than the Beijing Yellow River in its umpteenth
recording. Unfortunately no one thought of transcribing it into a violin
concerto! Young Chinese pianist Chen Jie gives excellent barnstorming accounts
of both concertos, and she is alertly partnered by the New Zealand Symphony
Orchestra. Well worth several listens.