Rhinegold Photo credit: Matthias Creutziger
Romanian pianist Radu Lupu is retiring aged 73

Josephine Miles

Radu Lupu retires

11:38, 21st August 2019

Radu Lupu will formally retire from the concert stage at the end of the 2018-19 season

The 73-year-old Romanian pianist has suffered frail health for the past couple of years, resulting in frequent concert cancellations.

Lupu gave his final London appearance in February 2019, performing Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No 4 with the Philharmonia Orchestra under conductor Paavo Järvi – an event reviewed by Jessica Duchen.

‘The unique quality of his playing lies in the touch itself,’ wrote Duchen. ‘It’s the transparency of tone, the cushioned finesse of it, and the way he turns a phrase that, in a matter of a few notes, suggests a deep, empathetic humanity and a profound love for the music.’

Lupu shunned the limelight and rarely spoke to the press, but an interview from 1992 reveals his attitude to performance: ‘It is richness of experience and fantasy, and the ability to transport. The artist should have his own voice. Everyone tells a story differently, and that story should be told compellingly and spontaneously. If it is not compelling and convincing, it is without value…’

A student of Florica Musicescu and Heinrich Neuhaus, Lupu won first prize at no fewer than three international competitions: Van Cliburn (1966), George Enescu (1967) and Leeds (1969).

Keith Clarke, former editor of Classical Music magazine, wrote: ‘It was sad to learn that Radu Lupu will be closing the piano lid for good at the end of this season. At his solo debut at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in 1969, he played so quietly at times that people at the back of the hall almost needed to lean forward and cup their ears. It was magical – a singular approach to the music and such extraordinary lyricism.

‘Working for Decca gave me a rare chance to interview him in 1971. We had to meet in the afternoon, he said, as he didn’t like getting up in the mornings, which gave me my first question: He had an 11am Edinburgh Festival recital booked for the following week – how was he going to play that? “Very badly,” he yawned.

‘A quarter of a century has slipped by with no recordings, and ill-health has seen concert cancellations, so it should be no surprise that he has decided enough is enough. But he should not slip away without a salute to an artist who seemed to see so deeply into the music and was able to give us all a glimpse of what he saw.’

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