Radu Lupu is all the greater since he gave up recording

The Romanian pianist, who turned 70 yesterday, has observed media silence for more than 20 years.

Kirill Gerstein, in a review for New York Review of Books, argues the decision has added an extra dimension to his performances:

For the past two decades, the Romanian pianist Radu Lupu has chosen not to record any music. He does not allow radio broadcasts of his playing, he does not give press interviews, and he has almost no social media presence. This had made his performances all the more prized. Lupu, who turns seventy on November 30, is far more than a great pianist; listening to him, my attention slips away from the beauty and mastery of his piano playing, deeply impressive though it is, with a rich palette of sound and resonance, control over chordal voicing fueled by an exceptionally refined harmonic sense, and a muscular apparatus that accurately plots into reality his imagination of the shape and timing of musical events. Soon, I find I am taken deep below and far above the surface.

 

radu lupu

 

Read Kirill’s full review here.

 

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  • Slight side-issue, but I was reminded of it by the paragraph above: is there any scientific evidence that one pianist can make a better sound on a given piano than another pianist? The quality of sound of some other instruments is very clearly controlled by the player, but with a piano you hit the key and some wooden and felt mechanisms eventually cause a hammer to hit a string or strings. How much control, really, does the player have over that, and how?

    I’m talking here not about phrasing or chordal voicing or contrapuntal delineation, but about the pure sound of the struck strings.

    • Posture and arms’ mechanics produce different quality of sound: between a pianist using his entire arm from the shoulder and one using only his forearms, from the elbow; the sound will either breathe or feel tense and thin. Charles Rosen claim is indefensible.

      • But how? What difference does it make using the whole arm or the shoulder, given the mechanics involved in the piano itself? How can a piano either breathe or sound tense given the remoteness of the eventual fall of the hammer on the string from the action of hitting the key?

        • “What difference does it make using the whole arm or the shoulder”
          Looks as if you cannot even restate what I wrote.
          Try yourself, experiment, go hunt! Pianists say they feel the strings with their fingers… But hey, what do they know?

  • I’m no scientist but one just has to listen to, say, Gilels and Richter playinga Steinway to hear a great difference of sound.

    • It would be very interesting if a blind listening has been done to test that, rather like the tests to compare strads with modern violins which produced the result very few expected.

  • Long may Mr Lupu live of course, but the sad truth is than when he dies there will be so little legacy. Those of us who heard him will be like the people in times past who heard say, Joachim play.

  • Radu Lupu is in my opinion one of thr three greatest living pianists, the others being Argerich and Zimerman, with Pires, Pletnev, Pogorelich, Kissin, Pollini, Perahia and Wang as the rest of the top ten.

    Pity that he doesn’t records anymore but his Decca legacy, small as it is, is consistently exceptional. His Schubert late sonatas are the best ever made in the studios, again in my opinion of course.

  • Charles Rosen maintained that there could be no difference in sound qua sound between two pianists playing the same piano.

    Lupu’s appearances with the Boston Symphony (the only times I have heard him) were both in Mozart concerti, and both were played as though in someone’s living room rather than in capacious Symphony Hall. One could have called it uncompromising had it not seemed so overly-refined and, finally, dull. (Am surprised not to find Andras Schiff or Richard Goode in “the top ten” of any discerning listener.)

  • Lupu is a sublime pianist. He lies backwards on a chair when performing- a cross between Rasputin and a left over hippie from the 70’s. But what wonderful marvels of sound he coaxes from the piano.

    It does not surprise me that he abandoned recording long ago- he’s a spontaneous artist who plays in the moment rather than over 50 odd takes.

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