Two critics are stunned by Radu Lupu’s ‘farewell’main
Fiona Maddocks in the Observer:
The solo opening of the (Beethoven G-major) concerto, hushed, poetic, sinewy, heralded an account of daring intimacy, dense with risk. Lupu allows nerve-shattering pauses. This has no connection with the missed notes or insecure passagework or, in one instance, a time lapse between soloist and orchestra. He has always played with an improvisatory quality, as if taking aural dictation from the ether. As a younger man, flowing black hair and beard, he seemed like someone from a Russian novel. Now he’s the hermit, frail beyond his years, down from the mountain bearing wisdom.
Jessica Duchen on JDCMB:
The chairs were out for the returns queue at the Royal Festival Hall on Sunday night. Word was spreading that this might be the last chance for London to hear Radu Lupu play. He has long preferred to avoid the capital’s concert halls – whether because of iffy acoustics, acidic critics or other reasons I could not say – and an appearance with the Philharmonia Orchestra and conductor Paavo Järvi for Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto looked almost too good to be true.
Lupu, 73, is tall and imposing on the platform, yet somewhat frail in gait and balance. His Beethoven came through in parts almost as a memory of the concerto. Yet the unique quality of his playing lies in the touch itself. It’s the transparency of tone, the cushioned finesse of it, and the way he turns a phrase that, in a matter of a few notes, suggests a deep, empathetic humanity and a profound love for the music.
He uses a chair rather than a piano stool and sits at the keyboard almost as others might at a desk, as if making notes (in every sense, of course). He’s thinking aloud with his hands.
If you missed it, you missed it forever.