Why do we have the need to commemorate anniversaries?
It’s a manifestation of identity, of what ties us together and defines us. The people who challenged ideas, progressed thought, or rose above tyranny to restore dignity to our culture. By celebrating and commemorating, we establish mile markers that we can cling to in our own turbulent times.
Dinu Lipatti was born on March 19, 1917 in Bucharest, at a time when Romania had a population of just 9,000,000 and the only oil fields in Europe. Romania was a pawn between the Allies (England, France and Russia) and the Central Powers (Germany, Hungary and Turkey). Romania was in a ‘no-win’ situation and managed to stay out of the Great War for the first two years. But in 1944, persuaded by Allied desires to cut off German oil supplies and promises of over 200,000 troops and generous loans, Romania joined the Allies in the war against Germany. But the Allied promises were not kept and Dina Lipatti was born in a war torn city occupied by Germany.
This same would happen again during World War II, but that’s another story. This story is about two brothers: Dinu and Valentin.
Dinu’s mother, Ana Racoviceanu, had just turned 20 in 1917. Dinu’s father, Theodor Lipatti, was 45 years old and married to another woman. Theodor’s father, the Venerable Castache Athanasiu Lipatti, was a prosperous banker and large land owner.
The marriage of Ana Racoviceanu and Theodor Lipatti finally took place in 1921, after Theodor’s first wife passed away. It was during the same year that Theodor Lipatti, a music lover who had taken violin lessons from the musically renowned Spaniard, Pablo de Sarasata, first perched Dinu on the chair of the piano and taught him to play one of Mozart’s minuets.
There is another indication of Dinu’s destiny in 1921. Theodor Lipatti convinces George Enescu to be Dinu’s godfather and be present at his baptism. Enescu was 40 years old and his Romanian Rhapsodies, composed in 1901, had made him one of the world’s foremost musicians.
Valentin, who was not yet born, tells the baptism story.
“Dinu was baptized in 1921, four years after his birth, because my father believed that a child should be conscious of the baptismal act. Enescu is photographed placing a crown of laurel leaves on his godson’s head. Dinu was holding a violin in his hand because the photographer did not have a piano.”
The was the symbolic way Dinu was introduced into the world of great music. In order to conquer this world, he not only needed good teachers, but also a reliable mentor. Mentors demand obedience to
the act of renouncing self-centeredness. It means to refuse being a show-off or a narcissist, precisely the things that destroy so many talented men.”
Dinu Lipatti had scoliosis, a physical disability that required him to sleep on a wooden mattress. With a head that was too large for his body and asthmatic lungs that kept him chronically ill, he was teased by the boys at school and pitied by the girls.
Dinu’s good fortune was being born into a wealthy family. His father was a landowner and could provide the best teachers to harness his natural talents. It was Florica Musicescu who took Dinu to the next level.
“Of tyrannical exigency” was Dona Flora, the nickname given to Florica by Dinu’s father. It took backbreaking work to make Dinu a successful young musician. But, Dinu had an undying affection and admiration for this woman, consulting her and following her advice until late into his piano career.
Born in 1923, therefore 6 years younger than Dinu, Valentin’s childhood and adolescence was heavily influenced by the excessive attention his parents gave his talented, and often ill, brother.
Later in life, Valentin reflected:
“Until I was 7 or 8, I was very jealous of the attention everyone, and I mean everyone – relatives, friends and acquaintances – gave Dinu. I was considered an ordinary boy. When my mother’s friend came over for afternoon tea and only acknowledged the presence of the child prodigy, I pulled on my mom’s skirt and whispered “tell her that I’m a violinist!”
I had no particular inclination toward the violin and I never played a single note of any instrument to the great surprise of our musical teachers and Dinu’s disapproval.”
By all measures, Dinu and Valentin had a happy childhood.
Their parents were healthy and loving, they lived in a big house, and were taken care of a by a compassionate Bulgarian nanny, Mariana, who dedicated sixty years of her life to the family.
Like many other wealthy families, the Lipatti’s found a sanctuary in the Romanian countryside where the children of city-dwellers discovered the paradise of freedom and the natural mysteries of the world. Their paradise was named Fundățeanca. It’s located in Arges, in a commune now known as Leordeni, on the old highway that runs between Bucharest and Pitești.
Valentin wrote about it.
“Dinu, mother and I would go to Fundățeanca every summer. We’d set up shop at the end of July and only returned home for mother’s birthday on September 9.
Fundățeanca was a spellbinding place of beaten trails that made their way through the forest. A place of full moon’s where father slept outside on a park bench. A place where music, reading and fresh thoughts came easily. There was always a lingering smell of bitterness from the walnut trees intermingled with a sweet smell from the linden trees. It was the place of faithful dogs and of genuine happiness.”
Dinu built a mansion on the crest of a hill at Fundățeanca during the Second World War. For the last thirty years, many of his belongings have returned to the residence. They were donated by Valentin.
At the age of 15, Dinu graduated from the Bucharest Conservatory in 1933 and one year later was giving recitals at the Roman Athenaeum. He was already interpreting Liszt’s Concerto 1 in E-flat Major and performing Chopin’s Concerto in E Minor.
All of these things were happening while Romania was looking towards France with gratitude, like looking at an older sister, a role-model. In pretentious saloons in Bucharest, French was the spoken language.
In the East, Stalin had starved millions of people. In Germany, the power belonged to a guy with a horrible mustache. And the English speaking world was condemned for the great financial crisis it brought forth.
In the thick of these historical events, Ana Lipatti decided it was time for Dinu to continue his musical studies in Paris. This ambitious and authoritative woman felt that Romania was not big enough for her child prodigy.
The Lipatti family sold one of their Bucharest homes to buy an apartment in the sixth district of the French capital. From 1934 until the summer of 1939, Ana Lipatti and her two sons lived on Rue Saint-Romain, apartment 9.
After being enrolled at the Ecole Normale de la Music, Dinu began to study with the greatest French pianist of that time, Alfred Cortot. For composition, his teacher was Nadia Boulanger, who he referred to as his “spiritual mother.”
Valentin discribes Dinu’s maturation in Paris. “This weird boy, with a very unattractive physique and with no natural charisma, was transformed when he sat at the piano. He became transcendental and the music fed him with a unique and irresistible passion.
The young man became beautiful, tall, powerful, sublime. I have never been privy to such a powerful transfiguration.”
While Dinu was absorbed by music, Valentin began taking dramatic arts and language lessons from Denis d’Ines at the Parisian conservatory:
“He taught me to speak French like the French. In other words, he taught me how to shake off my Romanian accent and to place a strong emphasis on the “r” consonant. I learned how to correctly compose sentences and to stop confusing open vowels with closed ones. He then taught me how to speak with dramatic metaphors and to act it out with profound effect.”
This photograph was taken in the Lipatti’s apartment on Rue Saint-Romain. We see a domineering mother, the center of power, who is proud of her older son (on the right). Dinu appears embarrassed by this admiration. Valentin does not dare to lift his gaze. The father is a marginal character, always seated in the same position in every family photo.
On top of concerts, recitals, theater performances and all the en vogue movies, Ana Lipatti bought her eldest son a Matford (European equivalent of a Lincoln) upon graduating. Dinu was as passionate behind the wheel as he was when he hovered over the keys of the piano.
RETURN TO ROMANIA
In July 1939, the Lipatti family moved back to Romania. Dinu met the pianist Madeleine Cantacuzino on the very first night he returned. “She was the only great love of Dinu’s life” were the words of Valentin.
Madeleine was married at the time of their meeting. She dropped everything to be with Dinu and she dedicated herself to him until the end.
Between 1939 and 1943, Dinu performed in Rome, Vienna, Berlin, Bratislava and Sofia. He also frequently performed in Bucharest, establishing himself as the best pianist of his generation.
As the Allied bombings of Bucharest intensified in 1944, Dinu Lipatti and Madeleine moved Switzerland in 1944. Dinu taught virtuoso classes at the Conservatory in Geneva.
Everything changed for the Lipatti family in 1947. Theodor died of cerebral hemorrhage and Dinu was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma.
By 1947, the Communists had taken over Romania and Dinu was desperate to have his mother at his side. In 1949, he sent her a letter asking her to come to Switzerland. His father-in-law, the academic Mihai Ralea, helped Ana complete her exit papers, but she was still arrested by the Securitate at the border. They claimed she was trying to smuggle out silver.
Eventually, in Septemeber 1950, Ana Lipatti made it to Switzerland to be at her son’s side. She came with no money, only her clothes and silver spoons.
Dinu’s last recital was in September of 1950, in Besançon, France. He fell ill on stage and left only to return a few minutes later to play Jesus bleibet meine Freude (Jesus, Joy of Man’s Desiring), the same piece he had played at his first recital when he was five years old.
Da capo al fine, like the circle of life, he died on December 2, 1950.
Ana Lipatti remained in Switzerland where she settled in a suburb of Geneva called Chene-Bourg. She died in 1973, at 86 years of age, and is buried in the cemetery next to Dinu.
VALENTIN’S NEW LIFE
In 1947, Valentin Lipatti seemed to have all the comforts of inter-war Paris: money, education, and social status. He certainly could have escaped Communist Romania. But he chose a different path.
“In the fall of 1947, I was accepted into the Romanian Communist Party and in February 1948, I became a member of the Romanian Worker’s Party. Coming out of the old society in which I had spent my childhood and adolescence, I suddenly entered another world and I was open to giving myself to it entirely.
1948 and 1949 were full of joy. There was an energy and pleasure derived from taking part in creating a new Romanian society. All of a sudden, my life had meaning.”
In 1964, Valentin Lipatti became a diplomat and in 1965 was named the permanent delegate of Romania to UNESCO. He returned to Paris where he lived until 1971. From 1972 to 1975, he was Romania’s chief negotiator at the Helsinki Conference.
The Helsinki Conference was a huge success for Valentin. Coming on the heals of the Russian invasion of Prague in the 1968, the conference culminated in 35 countries, including the United States and Russia, signing an agreement that established the “limited sovereignty” and “inviolable borders” of each country. This gave Romania greater latitude to operate independently from Russia.
After the Helsinki Conference, Valentin was elected vice-president of the Executive Committee of UNESCO (1976-1980). In 1978, he was named the chief of Cultural and Media Services in the Romanian Ministry of External Affairs.
In the book, “Red Horizon,” the controversial General Ion Mihai Pacepa sustains that Valentin Lipatti was the adjunct chief of Service “D” (misinformation) of the Securitate, going by the code name Valentin Leonte.
Valentin Lipatti responds to this accusation in his novel, “Porveni Street Number 23” (which is the source of all Valentin’s quotes in this article).
“Some lovers of sensationalism are eager to devour you and ruin your reputation. It is probably hard to forgive a landowner’s son for having remained faithful to left-wing ideologies at a time when opportunism was the law that governed many of the leaders.”
Heart disease began to weaken Valentin Lipatti in the 1970s. He was confined to a wheelchair for the last decade of his life. He died in 1999, at 76 years of age.
Stories about families like the Lipatti’s are important today. It touches on the richness of our culture and the darkness of our communist legacy that still looms large in many government institutions. We need a national debate about communism and its consequences.