Radu Lupu


Schubert Club Performance: January 19, 1998

Radu Lupu

He was aptly dubbed “the arch-magus” of the piano”. This enigmatic, increasingly reticent Romanian had few rivals when it came to illuminating the musical utterances of Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann or Brahms. In 1966, when he was only 20 and still studying at the Moscow Conservatory (his teachers there included the legendary Heinrich Neuhaus, who also taught Richter and Gilels), Radu Lupu won the Van Cliburn Piano Competition in Texas. Two major competition triumphs in Europe soon followed, along with a Carnegie Hall debut and an exclusive recording contract with Decca. Until he retired in 2019, Lupu exerted an almost mystical power over audiences and inspired critics to rare encomiums. The critic Alex Ross, for whom he was “the supreme living practitioner of his instrument”, wrote that it was “difficult to describe exactly what happens when Radu Lupu’s fingers meet the piano. There are no flamboyant gestures, dazzling technical feats, startling interpretive notions. No grand personality hurls the music at the listener. What happens first is that the piano gives out a narcotically beautiful tone; solitary lines or open intervals take on a luminous sheen. Subtle dynamic shadings, lucid inner voices, well-turned rhythms and songful phrasings follow — beyond that, nothing, or something uncannily like the music itself.”

There aren’t many films showing Lupu at his instrument. Here are two, both of them
performances of concertos, both very beautiful. First, from Munich in 1991, the Mozart F
Major, K. 459 (No. 19):

Then, from Helsinki in 1996, the Brahms D minor:

But no conspectus of Radu Lupu’s artistry could fail to include a sample of his Schubert. This is his 1983 Decca recording of the four Impromptus D. 899:

And this is a live performance of Beethoven’s “Tempest” Sonata from 1994, a few years
before he played the work at his Schubert Club recital in St. Paul:

From the Schubert Club Archive:

Cover of the program from Lupu’s 1998 concert

Click to View Full Image

Program from Lupu’s 1998 concert

Click to View Full Image
Artist Archive