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#907765 - 09/23/04 06:23 AM For Lupu fans...
AndrewG Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 2506
Loc: Denver, Colorado
Radu Lupu is my very favorite living pianist. I just received something in the e-mail that I'd like to share with Lupu fans on this board. It is said that this is the transcript of a series of BBC radio broadcast programs that set the interviews interspersed with Lupu's recordings. I wish I could listen to the great archived music by this consummate pianist of our day. I have heard very few of the selections used in the series of programs. Here you go:


"Artist in Focus - Radu Lupu"
Presenter : Humphrey Burton

ep1. Guest: Piers Lane

HB: Today we welcome the Australian pianist Piers Lane. Our program today begins with Schubert, the first set of Impromptus. It's been said that nobody can really match the quality of Radu Lupu's Schubert -- its transparency, it's relaxed, and yet fantastic...I'm straining to find the right words. Piers, would you put your admiration for Schubert into focus?

Piers Lane: Well I've just listened to this tape of Radu Lupu that you're going to play, at the Leeds Piano Competition as a youngster, as a mere 23 year old, and the first thing that strikes one is the extraordinary maturity. I'm sure he would say that he would play them totally differently now, all artists grow and wish to do things differently later on, but nonetheless it's phenomenal for such a young man to be doing that, and at a competition. I mean, he creates the most phenomenal range of moods, nuances of emotion, searing emotions, in each of them.
The second one for instance, the E-flat, which can be played very beautifully and very inocuously by many very good pianists. He starts out slightly that way, but you feel this underlying crescendo beginning to happen, and then this tumultuous explosion in the B-minor section, that takes you by surprise and reminds you he has those Eastern European roots as well, the Romanian thing. The thing that I also find extraordinary, is he has all that side, that Russian singing sound at his disposal, he has all that but he has a sort of German temperament where it is required as well. He manages to capture what Arrau captured. They are very different pianists, but Arrau had that same sort of depth of intuition about emotion and so on, and care for detail of nuance, it's very serious music making. And that's what I love, and to hear it from a 23 year old seems extraordinary.

HB: Radu Lupu plays 4 impromptus by Schubert.

*** ***
HB: These days Radu Lupu doesn't want to appear in person, but we have unearthed an interview that he gave in 1975, when he talked about the impact of his success at Leeds on his subsequent career. Leeds gave him many important engagements all around the world, but there was a downside:

Radu Lupu: The problem with competitions is that many people who I consider wonderful musicians and major talents, they don't have the will to compete with other people.
The point of the competition is that every day, every time that you play, in every stage, you have to be on your top form, it's almost like a running race. And that's for me not really music making; because that's not human. Sometimes you feel better, sometimes you feel worse; and the jury is just going to judge you on that day, because they don't know you.

Radu Lupu in an extremely rare interview recorded in 1975. Next from the archives, a real rarity - the great Piano Quintet by Shostakovich, written in Moscow in 1940. Piers Lane, the perennial problem with the piano and four strings though, is one of balance, I'm sure you found that too when you've made chamber music. But he's no thumper though, is he, he doesn't bang his way to get the attention.

Piers Lane: Not at all. The thing about his performance is that he achieves something quite wonderful. At times you get this austerity that the piece has, at other times it perfectly suits the quirky heavy humour.

HB: In this performance given at a BBC lunchtime concert at St Johns, Smith Square, back in 1973, Radu Lupu is joined by the Gabrieli Quartet.

*** ***

HB: The last work on today's program is the Fantasia for piano, voices and orchestra, by Beethoven. Now, Lupu's approach to Beethoven is very special.
Back in 1975, Radu Lupu was asked whether his studies in Romania, and then at the Moscow Conservatory, had given him this special affinity with the Austro-German classics, from Mozart and Beethoven down to Brahms:

Radu Lupu: Not really. I think most of it is to do with records made by Furtwangler and Toscanini, in which I found a lot of things that I dreamed about, and I wanted to do myself in music. So it's part of my childhood memory. That's it.

Interviewer: When was it that you first decide that you wanted to spend the rest of your life playing piano?

Radu Lupu: Well, I didn't exactly decided that I wanted to spend my life playing piano. Even now I don't want to do that. But the piano is an instrument which is part of expressing oneself in music. I was told when I was younger, about 15 years ago, that I am going to be a composer. So I worked very much in that direction, and then I realized that I didn't have a lot of talent for composition, so I threw away the composition, and dreamed about being a conductor. Well, now it's too late to be a conductor, so I have resign myself to playing the piano. (laughs)

Interviewer: Do you come from a musical family?

Radu Lupu: No. My mother is a French Language teacher, and my father is a lawyer. My parents realized that I sort of have a talent, and they bought a piano from somewhere, and so I started taking lessons. But I was fortunate in that they were very understanding, and they didn't force me on the instrument to stay hours and hours long, because that sometimes can turn the child against everything. So I had a pretty easy life.

HB: That was Radu Lupu, in an interview recorded in 1975. Now back to Beethoven. Piers Lane, you can give us a pianist's eye view of the Beethoven Choral Fantasy.

Piers Lane: Yes. It's an eccentric piece. But Radu Lupu's performance searches out all the seriousness possible in it, and he transports you with his cadenzas to - they become lyrical wanderings, you know. And his cantabile tone is ravishing, and takes you into another world whenever he uses it, but again it's got that dramatic force, you really feels the C minor darkness.
I recall a story told me by a friend Catherine Sturrock, who's known Radu Lupu from a very early age. She was telling me how she rang him in desperation once, when she was first playing with a semi-professional orchestra somewhere, a concerto, and she said " What am I going to do? They don't seem to listen to me at all, they're not with me." And he said: " Play louder." And she said " Radu, I am straining every muscle, I am playing as loudly as I possibly can." He said: "Play louder with accents."

HB: Here now is Beethoven's Fantasia for piano, chorus and orchestra. Radu Lupu with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the BBC Choral Society, the conductor is Lawrence Foster, and the event the Proms back in 1971.

*** ***

HB: Tomorrow, we are delighted that Radu Lupu's friend, Mitsuko Uchida, will be appearing as our guest commentator.

ep2. Guest: Mitsuko Uchida

HB: Good morning Mitsuko.

Mitsuko Uchida: Hello, Hi !

HB: Mitsuko, thank you for joining us. Were you already living in London – or in England at any rate – when Radu Lupu made his big splash at the Leeds Piano Competition?

Mitsuko Uchida: No, I was not yet here, but I had actually heard him a few years earlier, when I was 16. If I am correct, I was 16, he must have been 18 or 19, or whatever, our age gap is about two or three years or somewhere around there. And I heard him in Vienna, at a competition that he was participating in. And I was just a floating young student. (laughs) I remember then thinking to myself, “This guy is the absolute, most talented musician that I have ever encountered in my life.” That was what I thought at the age of 16. And I must say I still remain thinking so, that this is possibly one of the greatest, most original, musicians that I have encountered in my life.

HB: We’re going to hear first a recording from the BBC archive, of two Chopin Nocturnes. This is part of a recital which Radu Lupu gave at the 1970 Leeds Festival – not the competition, but the Festival, the following year; presumably that’s one of the prizes that goes with winning the competition. Mitsuko, you’ve heard these nocturnes, what was your impression?

Mitsuko Uchida: Well I was quite surprised. First of all, I think these are two out of three Chopin pieces that he has on his repertoire! (laughs) As far as I know, post-1970 or whatever, I can’t think of Radu playing Chopin at all.
But I was very, very interested, and also very taken, for several reasons. Although he is not a natural Chopin player, the playing is of such beauty and such quality. Of course it is a young man, and I must say I adore it ! Because there is the quality of impetuousness that’s still there, that also goes with youth, and a certain edginess, that may go with more accomplishment. But Radu’s playing is, pianistically, not naturally that of a Chopin player. So that is also why he has chosen the Nocturnes and not the Etudes, for example.

HB: But he is a fabulous colorist…

Mitsuko Uchida: Oh, amazing. There is nobody on earth who can actually get certain range of colour. And also the control – don’t underestimate this unbelievable control of his playing.

HB: Two Nocturnes, from Chopin’s opus 27 set, no.1 in C# minor, no.2 in D-flat major, the pianist Radu Lupu. The venue is Leeds Town Hall, the date April 1970, Radu Lupu is weaving a spell at his first solo recital since winning the Leeds Piano Competition.

*** ***

HB: Our next recording from the BBC archive is the Mozart piano concerto, one of the very finest, k467 in C major. Mitsuko Uchida, this is a work that you know like the back of your hand. What does Radu Lupu bring to it?

Mitsuko Uchida: I mean, I adore his playing anyway. I have been, ever since, a fan of his. So probably my view of Radu Lupu’s playing is slightly warped. But what I hear, particularly, when I make a comparison between this performance that is 20 years ago, and to what he might do today… that is a very interesting thing to me. And what I hear is, he would play with greater accomplishment, more perfection, less edge. I find it utterly fascinating and very convincing. I love the unpredictable in Radu Lupu. And he has it today too, but he sounds much more laidback today than he did 20 years ago.

HB: Actually 1974, so almost thirty years ago…

Mitsuko Uchida: ‘74? - ok, so nearly thirty years ago, well there you are. And there is a young man battling, and you can hear the battle. And you can hear certain things that, you know, as a performer, I know when the floor was slippery, and you have to catch it. And there are moments of that in this performance, which is so gripping as well as exciting. And I love it! But all of his hallmark is there, that of incredible beauty of phrasing. You hear a note and you know it is Radu. And that sound, that I call the cat’s paw, or rather a little tiger’s paw, touching the keyboard, that is all there.

HB: In the first movement there is a big cadenza…

Mitsuko Uchida: Mm.

HB: Radu Lupu was in fact a composer prodigy, not a child piano prodigy; he was a composer in his youth. Are these his cadenzas as far as you know?

Mitsuko Uchida: I am pretty sure that those are, and they are wonderful. I love them! I think that some other colleagues of mine have used them, I hear.

HB: The second movement of the concerto has probably the finest example of the way that Mozart could spin a very long line of melody for the piano. Which is so very difficult, to sustain melody on the piano, because the moment the hammer strikes the string it’s dying. What’s the secret, can you share it with us Mitsuko?

Mitsuko Uchida: Oh well…

HB: Of spin that long line?

Mitsuko Uchida: Spin the line? It is all in your head. It is the imagination. It is just the imagination of the player. And of course there are certain physical, technical matters. And some people do play more beautiful legato than some others.

HB: But it’s so difficult for him when he sits back from the piano, isn’t it?

Mitsuko Uchida: No, that is a way of his balancing the weight. Changing from one note to the other. And he manages it. Actually, if I sit like that, I nearly produce – I can imitate also the Radu Lupu sound. But it is his sound, and not mine, so I wouldn’t. But actually it is all set up, it is a perfectly premeditated ‘crime’.

HB: This performance of Mozart’s C major piano concerto k467, was given by Radu Lupu and the English Chamber Orchestra, at a lunchtime concert, St Johns, Smiths Square, March 1974. Uri Segal was the conductor.

*** ***

HB: Today, we are very happy to be joined by Mr Lupu’s colleague and friend, Mitsuko Uchida, for her views on this great pianist, who we are going to hear next in Schubert’s D major sonata.

Mitsuko Uchida: I think the music that I love best in Radu’s performances: two composers, no, three – but in the order: Brahms, Schubert, Beethoven. Those I love absolutely every time I hear him play.
Brahms – I heard some of the greatest Brahms; F minor sonata, as well as the D minor concerto. Again and again. And of Schubert, I remember best a couple of times, not only once, when I thought, “If I never hear this piece again, I am very happy”. But the great A major Schubert sonata, he played it twice in my lifetime, when I was at a concert as a public, that I thought to myself, “Wow”. It was just so wonderful. So Schubert must be very close to his heart.

HB: One commentator about Schubert says that the first movement of this sonata is heroically strenuous, but then the emotional content – the charge - tapers down so that the last movement is affectionately convivial. Rather a lovely journey though isn’t it, from heroic to affectionately convivial?

Mitsuko Uchida: Yes, but how about that gigantic scherzo, which is completely heroic. That is the biggest, strongest, most heroic scherzo that he ever wrote. But last movement is almost, almost, not quite, almost, convivial. Or there is something that is as if he was sharing a little secret with somebody. And almost happy. There are moments of unbelievable happiness that touches it, in this piece. This is I think one of the quite amazing, not only heroic, but almost optimistic piece.

HB: Mitsuko, thank you very much for sharing your feelings about the composers, and about Radu Lupu. I don’t think there are many pianists who would sit here and talk about another pianist in the generous way that you have been doing today.

Mitsuko Uchida: Oh, no…! Well, I mean, you gave me the right person you see! (laughs)

HB: Schubert’s sonata in D performed by Radu Lupu at a St Johns, Smiths Square, again a BBC lunchtime concert. Radu Lupu playing Schubert as only he can.

*** ***
HB: Tomorrow we will be getting a conductor’s eye view of Radu Lupu from the Dutch conductor Edo de Waart.

ep3. Guest: Edo de Waart

HB: Edo de Waart, good morning. When did you first meet Radu Lupu, and what were your impressions?

Edo de Waart: It must have been right after he won the Leeds Competition, which I think was ’69? So I probably met him in ’70, ’71. It was in fact the Brahms # 1, which we very often played together in different places all over the world, and eventually also somewhere along the road we recorded, for Decca. As I recall, we immediately hit it off. He is shy; probably more shy now – I haven’t seen him in a couple of years, because I’ve been basically doing opera and other things, I hope we’ll change that soon – but he was already someone totally void of hype and superficiality. Nothing was really important to him but the music. And how to play that well, and how to do it well. What I found extraordinary is that, having done that piece quite a lot, I never did it with anybody that played more naturally, and in some ways made it extremely easy for me to accompany him. The Brahms 1st Piano Concerto is not easy, the first movement, to try to get the sweep.

HB: If you were asked to write a piece now about Radu Lupu, how would you sum him up in a few words?

Edo de Waart: Somehow the word ‘connected’ comes to mind. Connected with his whole being. In a way it was always so natural, there was never an empty spot or a bleak spot, brought fortes that sung throughout and then go within a very short moment to a beautiful singing piano, which I think is one of the true signs of a masterful pianist. And excellent rhythmical sense, which is also so important.

HB: We can enjoy Radu Lupu’s playing at its purest, in our first recording from the BBC archive. It’s the sonata in D major by Joseph Haydn, one of a set published in 1780. This performance was recorded at a Wigmore Hall concert in 1988.

*** ***
HB: Our next choice comes from that same Wigmore Hall concert, but this is going to illustrate a different aspect of Radu Lupu’s art, that of the accompanist. Or rather I ought to say the partner, because he doesn’t accompany, he plays with. The soprano Marie McLaughlin joined Radu Lupu on the platform, to sing six of the Original Canzonettas which Haydn composed during his second stay in England, in the mid 1790s. Now you know, Edo de Waart, from your work with concerto soloists of all kinds, that being an accompanist requires a measure of self-denial, or at any rate you got to be ready to compromise. Do you think Radu is ready to compromise when he is working with someone?

Edo de Waart: Oh, absolutely, yes. He is just a wonderful musician. And since he is not an egomaniac, he would be a wonderful accompanist. He probably has no patience for partners that are dumb, and so he probably won’t do it very often.

HB: And the list of people he has played with, does make pretty impressive reading. I’m thinking Daniel Barenboim, Murray Perahia, for starters. I mean, they don’t pick up just anybody to play with.
Now a word or two about the six Haydn songs we are going to hear. The poem is by a remarkable lady named Anne Hunter, she was the wife of a London surgeon, and she was Haydn’s favourite companion during his London visits. She certainly brought out the best in his poetic imagination, the piano writing is very elaborate for Haydn, and it has a harmonic richness which is extraordinary; these are like operatic arias. There are six songs in all, in this remarkable set of what are published as Six Original Canzonettas. Apparently Haydn himself sat at the piano and sang the songs, when he had a long audience with King George III in 1795. That must have been fun to listen in on!

*** ***

HB: Today’s program is going to conclude with Brahms’s first piano concerto, Radu Lupu the pianist, the BBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by Edo de Waart. Edo, how do you prepare a concerto with Radu Lupu?

Edo de Waart: You see each other ten minutes before, and he says “ Well I do this like this, and this like that”, and that’s it. And thankfully, it is so incredibly clear what goes on in his heart and in his mind, that I have felt him to be one of the easiest soloists to accompany, because it is so natural. I always totally embrace his performances, and to just make it as easy as possible for him.

HB: This concerto has been described as a symphony which happens to have a piano obligato, rather than a concerto part in the conventional way, so that in a way the conductor is more important than he very often is.

Edo de Waart: It’s a partnership in this piece. Really a partnership, because you can really sink to pieces if the conductor does not live up to what the pianist does, or there is too much of a discrepancy between the two views of the piece.

HB: I suppose Radu is most famous for his intimate, sensitive playing. And yet this work is huge. I mean, the way you encourage the timpani to really come in at the beginning, it’s like a timpani concerto.

Edo de Waart:Yeah, but still, I think even when he plays loud it has always had that intimacy, it has always been within something that is wonderful to connect with. And there’s the word again – the connection. It has always been, and is, a wonderful thing with him.

HB: Can you throw any light on why Radu Lupu doesn’t play the Brahms Second Concerto?

Edo de Waart: Well, you can’t really say this of Brahms, but it’s a bit more circus than soul. And I think that is what Radu is all about, in many ways. I think with Radu, he doesn’t need many works, he doesn’t need a whole lot of outside appearance and other things, it’s about one thing and that’s the music, what he feels and believes about it, and he is able and eminently capable of letting that radiate out without having to stop the rehearsal twenty times to say, “Edo, can you,,,blahblah… this is too fast, and this is too loud”; he would just – I think if he felt that it was too loud, he would just play softer, and you would get the message. Unless you are stupid. In that sense he is connected with what he feels and believes in life, I’m sure. I love that directness, that direct road to the heart and soul, without any outside…crap… I can’t say that obviously -

HB: - you’ve said it!

Edo de Waart: – and that’s so refreshing, and it’s even more refreshing now than it was thirty years ago, when there is more hoopla and hype and everything going on.

HB: Well thank you Edo for joining us today and sharing with us your appreciation of the artistry of your friend Radu Lupu.

Edo de Waart: It is my great pleasure.

HB: Now here is the great Piano Concerto in D minor by Johannes Brahms. Played at the Proms, Royal Albert Hall, August 1970. The BBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by Edo de Waart, the soloist Radu Lupu.

ep4. Guest: Sir Colin Davis

HB: Today we are very happy to meet Sir Colin Davis, nowadays best known as the principal conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra. Good morning, Colin.

Sir Colin Davis: Good morning.

HB: When Radu Lupu first came to prominence in the late 1960s, you were in charge of the BBC Symphony Orchestra. Were you aware of his rather dramatic arrival on the musical scene, after he won the Leeds Competition, and did you work with him then, in the 1960s?

Sir Colin Davis: I think I met him later than that. We had all heard that he had won this competition…but d’you know, I can’t really remember the first thing we did. We seem to have done so many things over the years, that he’s become part of my life. A very good part of it.

HB: A very good part, yes. I presume that after 50 years as a conductor, you’ve learned to place musicians in various categories; the straightforward ones, the tricky ones, the poets, and the self important… Radu you’ve known as you say for 20 years or more, what kind of a musician, what kind of an artist, is he?

Sir Colin Davis: It’s a very subjective matter, all this, I can’t pretend to be objective. I just like the way he plays. His phenomenal command of the keyboard. His ability to play a rubato which doesn’t disturb anybody, but which reveals an aspect of a melody or a rhythm which you haven’t thought of. He’s not calling attention ever to himself, like saying “what a clever fellow I am, I’ve just done something wonderful”. Nothing like that. And he has a wonderful relationship with the Classics. The most recent thing we did with him was the First Concerto of Beethoven. It was an absolutely wonderful performance. It was played with such apparent simplicity, but at the same time that refinement, which only he can bring. I thought it was amazing.

HB: Well we’ll be hearing him in Beethoven later in this program, but it’s the ‘Emperor’ rather than the First Concerto. We are going to begin with a Cesar Franck violin sonata. Listening to the tape of the performance we’ve got, which was with Radu Lupu and his Romanian violinist compatriot Stoika Milanova… what does he bring to it, do you think?

Sir Colin Davis: I think one would be able to tell that it’s Radu playing. There’s an extraordinary simplicity in the way he plays. Even these very chromatic romantic pieces, like Cesar Franck. And the clarity – I think his use of the pedal is extremely subtle. He doesn’t just keep his right foot flat on the floor and make a heap of notes (laughs). You could tell exactly where he is and what he’s doing, and I think that is a terrific asset. Because you could lose yourself in these mountains of notes if you don’t.

HB: And miasmas of chromaticism.

Sir Colin Davis: Precisely.

HB: So it’s a classical approach to a very romantic, very passionate, very improvisatory piece isn’t it? Part of the joy of the piece is that you feel that two people are making music as if they are inventing it on the spur of the moment, in this piece.

Sir Colin Davis: That’s right.

HB: Sonata for violin and piano by Cesar Franck has four movements, and this performance by Radu Lupu and Stoika Milanova was given at St Johns, Smith Square, back in February 1972.

*** ***

HB: Sir Colin Davis is our guest commentator today as we consider the art of Radu Lupu.
Colin, there is an air of mystery that sort of hangs about Radu Lupu, partly because he keeps himself very much to himself, and refuses to give interview; but maybe that is just the public persona. When you are working together, does he just get on with the business in hand, or does he even then have a certain mystique about him?

Sir Colin Davis: The mysterious thing about him for me, is how he plays. I understand he’s for himself something of a mystery, because he can get very depressed, and things don’t look to him as good… but somehow as soon as he starts to play, it’s probably like most of us – we escape into that fantastic world, whatever it may be…Schumann, or Bartok, or Mozart...and then all the wonderful things about his imagination and his technique come out immediately.

HB: He was born in Romania, and trained in Russia. Do you get any sort of East European feeling about the way he approaches music-making?

Sir Colin Davis: Well, he’s not as wild as some of those people from that part of the world, I must say! (laughs) He has a classical restraint, which some of them might find worth very well studying (laughs)

HB: He’s very impressive to look at too, isn’t he! Perhaps a little bit of a touch of Glenn Gould about him… the way he sits, he doesn’t use a conventional piano stool, he just uses any old chair, I think, that he comes across… he leans back… and he’s a very heavy-set figure… he’s got a big beard… I think somebody compared him to the famous painting of Mussorgsky by Repin. (Sir Colin laughs) Is there something of the shaman about him, the holy man?

Sir Colin Davis: Well.. you could confuse him with a mullah; or a dignitary of the Orthodox Church, I suppose. (laughs)

HB: Do you ever talk about other matters than music?

Sir Colin Davis: Very seldom. Very seldom. Yes, we have talked about other things. The complexities of being a musician, and so on. He doesn’t talk much anyway. He tells a scurrilous joke in his beard occasionally, which you have to listen very hard for. (laughs)

HB: We’ve chosen piano music by Schubert next, a couple of scherzos written when he was just turned 20. What do you look for from a Schubert interpreter?

Sir Colin Davis: Well, I think these scherzo show exactly what Radu can do. It’s so elegant, the rubato is so graceful, he’s like a ballerina. And his timing is absolutely wonderful; it’s so subtle. One will be just a little bit later than the one before, and yet it creates a completely different impression. And it’s also the clarity of his fingerwork – though again, that’s also a question of this pedaling we spoke of. That’s what he can do, and I don’t know anybody else who can do that.

HB: Two scherzi, then, by Franz Schubert, the first in B-flat, the second in D-flat. They were played at a recital at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London, back in 1971.

*** ***

HB: And now for the main work in today’s program, Beethoven’s piano concerto # 5, the ‘Emperor’, a performance given at the Lucerne Festival, when Radu Lupu was partnered by the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra under Claudio Abbado.
Colin Davis, you’ve worked many times with Radu Lupu. Can one say there is a Radu Lupu style where Beethoven is concerned?

Sir Colin Davis: I like the way he plays Beethoven, because he doesn’t emphasize the aggressive side of the great man with the supreme will. Beethoven was also capable of immense tenderness, and full of the most delicate textures. I very much like that approach to Beethoven. What is so nice working with Radu, is that he’ll play the first movement, but then he’ll very quietly say “could we do this, or could we do that, or…”, and I’ll say “for heavens sake if I’ve got the wrong tempo, stop me before I’ve gone 100 yards or something” (laughs). But somehow we have such an understanding, we didn’t even discuss tempos at all.

HB: You don’t feel he’d like to move you off the podium and do it himself, like many concert pianists?

Sir Colin Davis: No I don’t at all. No, no. Yes, yes, I have felt in the way many times, but he’s not one of those. I think he is genuinely happy when he feels that people like what he is doing, and they are there only to support him and make him as comfortable as possible so he can be free. But he plays chamber music with the orchestra all the time. He may sit there, trying to pretend he’s not really playing at all, his fingers just happen to be –

HB: - you’re leaning back, and you’re holding out your hands with with your eyes shut -

Sir Colin Davis: - there’s a funny cartoon of Brahms -

HB: - that’s exactly what I thought of -

Sir Colin Davis: - you know the one, he’s leaning back, his legs hardly touching the pedals (laughs)…

HB: And Radu Lupu is now getting close to that hirsute image of the Brahms cartoon, isn’t he?

Sir Colin Davis: (laughs) Yes he is. He’s listening so hard all the time, that’s what I love about him. You’re not left high and dry, as some people do, as you well know, they go off on their own, and you might as well not be there, trying to tag along somehow. (laughs) But he’s not like that. Every phrase is molded with the members of the orchestra who are playing.

HB: He may be reticence itself off the platform, but when he is making music there aren’t any inhibitions are there. For example, at the beginning of the last movement of the Emperor Concerto, you’ve really got to play with, I think it’s described as, Bacchanalian vigour and excess, almost.

Sir Colin Davis: (laughs) Yes, I remember Michelangeli – was it Michelangeli? yes – he played that, BA-BA, with his fist! Pow! (laughs) It was wonderful! He really couldn’t get enough out of that!

HB: And you’ve done it with Claudio Arrau many times. I think sometimes Radu Lupu reminds me of Arrau, the same sort of thoughtful musician.

Sir Colin Davis: Oh very much so. When Arrau played Beethoven, there was no such thing as passagework; there was only musical shapes.

HB: And you could say the same about Lupu, couldn’t you, yes

Sir Colin Davis: Absolutely. I mean, Radu never plays things just in time, which is so boring.

HB: I read that he “palpably bares his soul” when he plays Beethoven. “Palpably” – that’s a bit difficult, how do you -

Sir Colin Davis: - you couldn’t touch your or anybody’s soul -

HB: - but in the slow movement, there is a kind of religious, spiritual quality in the Beethoven Emperor Concerto.

Sir Colin Davis: Yes there is a suspension of ordinary life, definitely. Which…well, all great composers are, really, renowned for what they can do in that direction. And Beethoven was particularly good at it; as indeed was Mozart, or Bach, or any of the Great Men. They could suddenly take you into another world which doesn’t seem to belong to everyday life at all. And Radu is wonderful at that. He’s always got the right colour, and he’s very very particular about textures.

HB: But he’s the absolute antithesis of the showy, which makes the Emperor very good for him. Because the cadenzas are not the flash cadenzas that some people, at least, add to the early Beethoven concertos.

Sir Colin Davis: Yes. No he’s not like that indeed, he absolutely hates it, that’s why he doesn’t like giving interviews, he doesn’t want to make recordings, he just wants to creep onto the platform, and play as wonderfully as he can, and then creep off again. (laughs)

HB: Well let us allow him to do that now. Our thanks to Sir Colin Davis for those insights. The performance of the Emperor we are going to hear now, was given in the new Lucerne Concert Hall as part of the Festival. Radu Lupu is partnered in the Emperor Concerto by the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra under Claudio Abbado.

*** ***

HB: Tomorrow, we can hear Radu Lupu again in Schumann’s Symphonic Studies for solo piano, and two works by Mozart – the E-minor Violin Sonata, with Szymon Goldberg, and the A-major Piano Concerto k488.
Colin, you’ve heard him play with Szymon Goldberg, it’s very special isn’t it?

Sir Colin Davis: Oh it’s miraculous, actually. I think, you know, if that is the only thing he ever done, he will go down as a tremendous artist.

HB: Tomorrow we will be hearing from Daniel Barenboim, pianist and conductor and one of Radu Lupu’s closest friends.

ep5. Guest: Daniel Barenboim

HB: Today we journey to Berlin to the imposing Deutsche Staatsoper on the Unter den Linden, where the music director is Daniel Barenboim.
Daniel, what was your impression of Radu Lupu as a young player?

Daniel Barenboim: His maturity. His musical maturity. I remember hearing – it must have been a broadcast, I imagine directly from Leeds – his Schubert Impromptus. It was extraordinary. You say “what is your impression of the young Lupu” – he didn’t sound like a young person, and I mean that in the positive sense. It certainly did not lack any energy or effervescence; but he had from very early on, great musical maturity. And great musical maturity I think can be defined in the way that it is somebody that does not get lost in details, even of great beauty, but is able to maintain the big line, and is willing, already at a young age as it were, to sacrifice moments for the whole.

HB: Was he part of that tremendously entertaining circle of friends that dominated you and your first wife, in the late 60s, early 70s?

Daniel Barenboim: Well we became very close friends very quickly. I think we had a lot in common musically; and we found out later also, on another subject, his wife then, Liza, had been in Moscow together with Jackie. So there were ties on the wives’ side as well.

HB: We begin the music this morning with barnstorming pyrotechnics, the Scherzo #1 in B-minor by Chopin. And the Radu Lupu performance we are going to hear was given at the 1970 Leeds Festival, just six months after he won his big Leeds Competition prize. Very powerful playing of course, but also very poetic in the central trio. Well let’s listen now to Radu Lupu, the young Romanian lion, playing Chopin’s B-minor Scherzo.

*** ***

HB: The next treasure we’ve unearthed from the BBC archive is the E-minor sonata for violin and piano by Mozart, in which Radu Lupu partners Szymon Goldberg. Their commercial recordings of Mozart sonatas were a landmark of distinguished chamber music playing in the 1970s, but this is a live recording of a concert performance given in 1974.
Daniel, you know this Mozart repertory from the inside. Can you give us an idea of the musical chemistry that must have gone on between Lupu and Goldberg – a much older man, but a greatly experienced Mozart player?

Daniel Barenboim: I think the relationship between the two, between Szymon Goldberg and Radu Lupu, was very very intense and a very intimate one. And I know that Radu always had the greatest admiration for Goldberg, who managed, I think in the rather unusual way, to balance the nature of the soloist – which he was – with his great experience of playing in the orchestra.
This particular Mozart sonata has difficulty which I think is common to most of the works in the minor key. The minor key always has this sort of inner tension and tempestuousness, sometimes controlled, but still an elegiac quality also to this particular E-minor sonata, which is extremely well captured by the two.

HB: He was sort of a guru figure, Szymon Goldberg. But would Lupu have deferred to him naturally, or would Goldberg have been interested in how Lupu saw things, do you think?

Daniel Barenboim: I was never present when they rehearsed, so I cannot answer that question with certainty! But I would imagine that the question never posed itself. Because there was so much mutual respect and mutual curiosity, that I would have thought they each were interested in the viewpoint of the other.

HB: The sonata in E-minor, for violin and piano, by Mozart, k304. There are two movements.

*** ***

HB: Still to come, the A-major Piano Concerto by Mozart, k488. But before that, one of the grandest works for solo piano of the entire Romantic era, the Symphonic Studies by Robert Schumann.
Daniel, is there something special in Radu’s makeup that made him so absolutely elect affinity so close to the music of Robert Schumann?

Daniel Barenboim: I think very much so. But in this particular work, and in this particular performance, which... I hope he would not mind if I reveal something which he might have considered intimate... but not long ago, I was in Switzerland, and visited him at his house outside Locarno, in Lausanne, and he even played me a bit of this, sort of I think in utter amazement at himself, he actually liked something that he heard of himself, although I think he would probably not admit it (laughs). I think this is some performance that even he also admits to seeing some positive sides in.
But in any case, on a more serious note, I think there is an orchestral quality to Radu’s pianism, which is particularly called for in this piece. It is not a coincidence that they are called symphonic studies; they ARE symphonic studies.
The piano is in many ways a neutral instrument; that whatever weight you put on the keys, you produce a sound. You cannot say the same about the violin, or the oboe, or the trumpet; you actually have to make the sound from the beginning. But it is precisely this neutral quality which allows great pianists, in this case Radu, to produce colours that are not immediately evident when you just simply put any weight on the keys.
And if you listen carefully, you hear some chords that sound like horns, and others...it is as if he is actually orchestrating the piece, while playing it. You have to see a passage where it comes in thirds or sixths, and you have to then imagine that it is clarinets or horns in the texture, and then if you hear that inside your head, you then have to have the capacity to create the illusion of those instruments on this rather neutral instrument which we call the piano. And this is really the great art of playing the piano. It’s not only the dexterity – which after all can be learned by anybody who has normal sized fingers and hands, and a good teacher – but the ability to, as it were, impose certain colours on the keyboard, which give the illusion of the orchestra. And I think this is the nature of the symphonic part of the title, is precisely that. That you have to imagine certain orchestral sounds in order to produce this symphonic quality.

HB: Now we are going to hear Radu Lupu giving his performance of Schumann’s Etudes Symphonique at a St Johns, Smith Square concert, July 1991.

*** ***

HB: Daniel, you’ve an immense experience of the musical world as one of its leading conductors, quite apart from being a colleague of Lupu’s as a pianist. When you are building concert programs for your various symphony orchestras, what works do you think Lupu should be invited to play? What do you think of immediately when you want him to work with you?

Daniel Barenboim: Well, I think Radu has a huge curiosity. And he knows a lot of music, of different styles, but he himself rather wants to limit himself to certain composers and certain styles. For instance, he plays wonderful French music, he’s a wonderful Debussy player, but you hear rather little of that. He knows a lot of other music, that he really knows inside out and doesn’t play. I don’t think he plays much Chopin these days.
I think when he plays with orchestras, he likes to play Mozart or Beethoven concertos. I’ve also done with him the Schumann concerto very often, which he plays beautifully, and the Brahms D-minor. I’ve tried to convince him to play the B-flat for 30 years now, and he won’t, which I think is a great pity.
I’ve played in fact this Mozart concerto with him, the A-major; I’ve also played works with him, when we’ve played the double concerto very often. But this A-major concerto which we are going to hear now, I remember very well playing with him in Paris. And what struck me then, was that he was so aware of the operatic nature of this, which is not something that you hear in every Mozart keyboard player. Some have it, and others don’t. And that was the first thing that struck me about that. The last movement really sounded like a number that belongs to Figaro.

HB: Well the second movement also, I was going to ask you about the Barbarina parallel…

Daniel Barenboim: Yes, the second movement also. I remember, especially, the last movement, there was a lilt to the rhythm and an effervescence to the way he played it, that was really operatic.
He’s one of my favorite musicians, and one of my favorite pianists, and a very close friend, which probably does not make me terribly objective about him, but that doesn’t matter. But there is a mixture of authority in his thoughts, with a human warmth, which is very rare.

HB: This performance of Mozart’s A-major concerto was given by Radu Lupu, with the Finnish Radio Orchestra under Jukka-Pekka Saraste, at the Finlandia Hall in Helsinki. Thank you Daniel Barenboim for being with us for this program.

Daniel Barenboim: Thank you very much.

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#907766 - 09/23/04 06:33 AM Re: For Lupu fans...
Brendan Offline

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 5545
Loc: McAllen, TX
That was a wonderful read, thank you.

#907767 - 09/27/04 03:17 PM Re: For Lupu fans...
jeffylube Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/26/02
Posts: 716
Loc: Weatherford, Texas
Thank you very much for this post. It was really insightful and interesting.

I heard Lupu once, fairly recently at Bass Hall in an all Schumann program. He started with the C major Arabeske, Op. 18 and then went to the Kreisleriana, Op. 16. After intermission he performed the Fantasy, Op. 17. I enjoy Schumann, but he's not quite my cup of tea. But, never in a concert before, have I ever more felt like I was in the company of a supreme musician as that one. I don't think there's a price I wouldn't pay to see him again.

#907768 - 09/30/04 10:35 PM Re: For Lupu fans...
signa Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/04
Posts: 8483
Loc: Ohio, USA
good article! Lupu will be playing all Beethoven piano concertos with Cleveland orchestra earlier next year (Jan. perhaps). i am thinking of going.

#907769 - 06/01/05 05:24 AM Re: For Lupu fans...
wk Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/06/05
Posts: 89
Loc: Berlin, Germany
I heard Lupu a month ago in Berlin with a recital
of Beethoven, Schubert. He is much more relaxed
these days. I was amazed by this transformation
from the 80s when I first heard him. It used to
take him a long time to settle into the performing
situation and come into his own, often only after
the intermission. This time he was there right away, did very well, if not as secure as before.

#907770 - 04/21/06 10:38 AM Re: For Lupu fans...
lol_nl Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/21/06
Posts: 918
Loc: Ede, Netherlands
Should I go to the Lupu concerto next year or the Sokolov? Or both \:\) ?

"Music is enough for a lifetime, but a lifetime is never enough for music."
-Sergei Rachmaninoff.

#907771 - 04/22/06 04:01 AM Re: For Lupu fans...
Calin Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/11/03
Posts: 418
Loc: Bucharest
I never heard sokolov live, only some recordings and found him to be quite good.
But I have heard Radu Lupu live and he is definitely great. Especially his Schubert sonatas.

The Bechstein piano discussion group: http://launch.groups.yahoo.com/group/bechstein/
The Schweighofer piano site: http://schweighofer.tripod.com


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