Dinu Lipatti

Dinu Lipatti’s Bucharest

Dinu Lipatti was born on March 19, 1917, a couple of months after the almost provincial quiet city of Bucharest had been disturbed by the German occupation. “The restlessness, the noise, Victoriei Avenue itself, pubs and concert halls, everything is unnatural, strained, bearing the brutal seal of the invaders. Our Romanian world and that intense life from before is barely there”, recalls N. Rusu Ardeleanu, witness to those times. Bucharest citizens had in part chosen to go into exile, and those that had stayed looked nervously to the future. Among them, Theodor Lipatti, that “grandfather-parent”, as his second son Valentin and Dinu’s brother called him due to the old age at which he had become a father. He had studied law and entered the diplomatic world when he was quite young, during Minister Alexandru Lahovary’s term, and worked for the Department of Foreign Affairs. But he wasn’t quite happy, and before WW1 he quit, keeping only his title, Legation counsellor. Valentin Lipatti remembers: “A wealthy man, he didn’t go into politics and enrolled in no political party […]. He loved his country and its land, […] and in his old age, during WW2, he had wanted the allies’ victory over the barbarian Nazis”. At 19 he married the much older Jeana Niculescu, against his parents’ wishes. But during the war he met Ana Racoviceanu, the daughter of an officer in Slatina and a student at the Faculty of Letters, and before his first wife passed away, Theodor and Anna already had Dinu, in the modest house at 17, Grigore Alexandrescu Street, in downtown Bucharest, close to Lascăr Catargiu Avenue. The Argeş County Museum holds one of the rare photos of the house boasting large rooms with high ceiling and generous windows. The building was expropriated and then demolished by Decree 262 of September 12, 1988; today, that address is incorporated into the Grigore Alexandrescu Children’s Emergency Hospital.

Theodor Lipatti married Ana Racoviceanu when they moved to the much better-known house at 23 Povernei Street, not far from where Dinu had been born; the building, “an urban villa […], home to a well-to-do couple (architect Radu Tudor”) owes its fame also to Valentin Lipatti’s 1993 book: “It was all quite provincial back then, there were no cars, no brutal noises; in the morning we heard the familiar calls of traders, glass-cutters, in the afternoon peddlers selling carpets would pass by. In the small Siberian crab apple garden, the fall came with the hoarse rhythms of some power saw”. Valentin Lipatti recounts that his family moved from Povernei Street “sometime in 1927” to live, for about three years, in a villa on Bonaparte Street, close to where Studio Martin, formerly the Volga Movie Theatre, is today.

The Lipattis’ journey around Bucharest wasn’t over yet. “Sometime in 1930 we moved again, this time in the big house [that] Grandfather had bought for Father around 1900. The building, which still stands and is known today as the Lipatti House, was rather strange, a bastard-rococo house, elegant yet disproportionate, as if on its knees, making you think of a broad-chested but short-legged individual, and lacking those noble proportions which some of Bucharest’s old houses still feature. It was built by Petre Atonescu, a young architect just landed from Paris”, wrote Valentin Lipatti. “A wonderful, pink building, like a bonbonniere, on Lascăr Catargiu Avenue at the corner with Visarion Street. In the salon, […], an excellent grand Bechstein placed on a stand”, remembers Dinu’s friend pianist Corneliu Gheorghiu. It was there that Dinu used to organise chamber concerts for friends. A guest of the Lipattis, Miron Şoarec remembered: “The concert was for two pianos and piano four hands, and I had the honour to be [Dinu’s] partner. Here is the programme of that ‘house concert’: Handel – Concerto grosso in G minor (two pianos), Beethoven – Sonata in D major (piano four hands), Lipatti – Sonatina in E minor (two pianos). [This latter] was an arrangement of the Sonatina for violin and piano. It’s a shame that it was lost. […] I still have the typed program of this concert [to be given on December 17, 1933 at 4 p. m. precise] which also announced a future piano recital at the Lipattis, with works that Dinu was later going to perform in public. Among those present, Tania Celibidache, famous conductor Sergiu Celibidache’s sister, a mutual friend who was at the time studying at the Institute for Physical Education in Bucharest”.

The house was equipped with an attic to accommodate the Lipattis’ governess, nurse, cook, and driver. On July 29, 1933, Theodor Lipatti requested authorisation for a 14-storey building on his land on Lascăr Catargiu 12, Street. The project was rejected, redone three times, and finally abandoned. Thus, the original building still stands, today part of Bucharest’s architectural heritage. After the nationalisation of 1949, the house went through very difficult times, without fulfilling the destiny for which it stayed strong for so many decades – to become a Dinu Lipatti Museum.

The image of Dinu Lipatti as the artist that embodied perfection might compel us to draw an austere, excessively sober portrait, completely unlike the real Dinu. How many of us could picture the future soloist of Europe’s great concert halls and partner of such celebrities like Herbert von Karajan or Charles Münch partying with friends at the Niţă Stere pub on Uranus Street, “which served ‘steaks of the house’” (Miron Şoarec), enjoying the music of two old gypsy musicians, a violin and a cymbalom? It’s easier for us to see him as guest of Apostol Apostol, waiter at the Continental restaurant on Victoriei Avenue and one of Bucharest’s finest music lovers, owner of a unique record collection to which he listened to in the company of his friends on “His Master’s Voice” gramophone! But how many unknowns does he still hold, more than a century after his birth, this great, this beloved Dinu Lipatti?!

Monica Isăcescu