Conditions of the Tournament

Music history is replete with stories of artists meeting an early demise: Chopin, Django, Dinu Lipatti, William Kapell, and even Scriabin all passed on young.
Perhaps Lipatti and Kapell are less well known, but they are very important musicians in my estimation. Lipatti (1917-1950) was a fantastic composer and pianist who thankfully left us some recordings, though precious few, and many are of poor sound quality. Thanks to someone like Mark Ainley, who manages the Lipatti website, he is not forgotten.
Kapell (1922-1953) was considered by many to be the greatest of all young American pianists at the time of his untimely death in a plane crash. His legacy is also preserved, thankfully, on record.
While it is hard to reckon with the unfortunate nature of these circumstances, it is, none the less, a reminder that life is full of contradictions–like tragedy and success and the noble fight in the face of adversity.
Lipatti, in particular, who fought lymphoma in the late 1940’s when a cure was not yet possible comes to mind. His last recital which is preserved on a memorable concert recording was practically a “cavalry” experience for him. Short of breath and weak, he still persevered and made memorable, strong music. His death at 33 also lends itself to the Christ-like comparison, but perhaps that’s going too far.
This all puts me in mind of how writer Shelby Foote put these kinds of things into some perspective. Foote said that even though these harsh turns of nature were hard to negotiate, they were still “conditions of the tournament.”

My Hobby

My hobby is and has been for some time to study the life and works of various concert pianists. Arthur Rubinstein is a favorite and his autobiography is wonderful. I also am interested in two pianists of the 20th century who passed away before their time. That is Dinu Lipatti (1917-1950) and William Kapell (1922-1953).

As of late I have been looking into the music and life of Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli (1920-1995).
Michelangeli was a taciturn sort who disliked giving concerts. He was also a perfectionist who was rarely known to play a wrong note. Very interesting fellow. There are several Michelangeli performances to be seen on You Tube.

There are of course many more like Ignaz Friedman, Leopold Godowsky, Josef Hofmann, Rachmaninoff, Artur Schnabel, Samson Francois and others.

It always helps if I can read about the lives of these interpreters as well as listen to their archival recordings. In this way two books have been of great help. Those books are “Speaking of Pianists” by Abram Chasins and “The Great Pianists” by Harold C. Schoenberg.

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