Radu Lupu Live, Volumes 3 and 4

Radu Lupu Live, Volumes 3 and 4

As with the first two volumes of this series, these CDs mainly capture the celebrated Romanian pianist in his early years.  

Lupu’s Mozart is urban, elegant and rhythmically sprung with occasional ritenuti and pedal use and thankfully the slow movements are given time to breathe. The accompaniments are variable. Kempe’s woodwind are provincial, the horns virtually inaudible. Segal’s brass are too polite, the drum sticks too soft. The Cleveland strings are superb, but until the finale the wind are somewhere in the background. In Beethoven’s Choral Fantasia Lupu and Foster lack the humour, surging power and rhythmic élan of Serkin, Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic (Sony). The sound is variable, but never less than acceptable.

With the chamber works, shortly after the Mozart performance the artists recorded all of the Violin Sonatas for Decca and there is a real sense of conversation between them; although, as recorded, Goldberg’s tone is slightly edgy and his intonation very occasionally falters. The Shostakovich is let down by the Gabrieli’s emotionally detached, overly smooth playing and a lack of tension. 

Moving to the solo recitals, taken by composer. Volume 2 of this Doremi’s series featured a 1971 Aldeburgh Festival performance of Bartók’s Out of Doors (https://www.classicalsource.com/cd/radu-lupu-live-volume-2/) where the Barcarolle and The Night’s Music are slower, the opening Pesante faster than in New York. Both work, but the sound throughout the New York recital is very clangy.  

In the London Brahms Op.118 Intermezzi, he is slower and more contemplative than in his studio recordings and New York, but the latter complete set still features the hallmarks of all his playing; completely natural tempo, dynamic and tonal variation, beautiful phrasing and the ability to make everything sound improvised. However, his Decca version of Op.117 No.1, which is a minute slower, remains arguably the finest on record.

The Chopin Nocturnes are exquisitely poised, the Scherzo an improvisatory sounding tour-de-force, while the sounds Lupu creates in the Copland Sonata (a scandalously under-performed masterwork) are massively sonorous and he finds a rare sense of introspective, nocturnal beauty in the Andante sostenuto. 

Again Volume 1 contains a 1971 Aldeburgh Schubert D.960, which is slower in the first two movements, but Lupu’s impetuosity in New York is compelling and the Andante remains exceptionally beautiful, even if the earlier version is more profound and Shchedrin’s Humoresque is delightfully witty.    

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