Born on November 30, 1945, in Galati, Romania; son of Meyer and Ana (Gabor) Lupu. Education: Studied at Moscow P.I. Tchaikovsky State Conservatory, 1961-69. Addresses: Agent--Terry Harrison Artists Management, The Orchard, Market Street, Charlbury, Oxon OX7 3PJ England.

Concert pianist Radu Lupu is a renowned interpreter of the Austro-German school of composers, which includes Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Ludwig van Beethoven, Franz Schubert, and Johannes Brahms, among others. The Romanian-born pianist, who lives in London, is an esteemed guest performer with symphonies across Europe and North America. A critic for London's Independent newspaper, Adrian Jack, deemed him "one of the 'great' pianists of our time in some of the greatest music of all time. To Beethoven, Schubert, and Brahms he brings a depth and seriousness, a sense of infinity, that makes other pianists--even some fine ones--seem shallow and inexperienced by comparison."

Lupu was born on November 30, 1945, in Romania, and began studying piano at the age of six. His debut came just six years later, when he performed several works that he had composed himself. He attended high school in the Transylvanian city of Brasov, and continued his studies with teachers Florica Muzicescu and Cella Delavranca. His innate talent soon brought him wider attention, however: Romania, under Communist leadership after World War II, was nominally allied with the Soviet Union, and like many musical prodigies of his generation in Eastern Europe, Lupu was awarded a scholarship to the renowned Moscow P.I. Tchaikovsky State Conservatory. He studied there with Galina Eghyazarova, Heinrich Neuhaus, and later Stanislav Neuhaus.

Lupu won a trio of prestigious international competitions during the 1960s, beginning with first prize at the Van Cliburn Competition in Texas in 1966. "I just did not expect it at all," he told the New York Times, and admitted with some relief that the Van Cliburn challenge had concluded. "Contests are very nerve-wracking. I really do not like competition at all." The prize of $10,000 was a small fortune at the time, and winners were also booked on an international concert tour. As part of his scheduled engagements, Lupu debuted at New York City's Carnegie Hall the following April. Despite his misgivings about competition, three years later he entered and took first prize in the Leeds Piano Competition in Britain, another showcase of up-and-coming young performers.

Frosty, Yet Passionate Performer

Since then Lupu has gone on to enjoy a thriving career as a concert pianist, regularly invited to perform with some of the world's most prestigious orchestras. His rigorous stage persona became part of his allure: he never chats with the audience, or even smiles; instead he appears intensely focused, and even refuses the comfort of a padded piano bench--preferring instead a standard office chair. His sole interaction with the audience is a glare when he wishes it to be silent. What remains are his musical gifts, and for these he has won enthusiastic praise from critics. In 1991 he played Mozart's C Minor Concerto in a solo spot with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra (without conductor) at Carnegie Hall. Nation music critic Edward W. Said reviewed it and commended both on a fine performance. Said termed Lupu "certainly the most fastidious and self-effacing of contemporary pianists, a performer whose pianissimos, rhythmic intelligence and, yes, scales are incredible, but whose strong musical personality is expressed, like Orpheus's, by understatement and an almost stoical reflectiveness."

Although much of Lupu's repertoire is culled from the Austro-German school of composers, at a Carnegie Hall performance in 1994 he played selections from modernist Hungarian composer Béla Bartók as well as Schubert's difficult Four Impromptus. "The lightness of this player's touch, the devilish agility of his fingers, the evenness of the twisting unison scale passages, represented a transcendent order of pianism," remarked Harris Goldsmith in a review of the Schubert selection for American Record Guide. "This was probably the finest performance of this treacherous piece I have ever heard." New York Times reviewer Edward Rothstein commented on the same concert and Lupu's unusually remote stage demeanor: "He doesn't really seem to care if anybody is listening; he is playing as if for himself," Rothstein remarked, "giving the music an unusual immediacy."

Acclaimed Virtuosos Performances

In Los Angeles in 1998 Lupu played Bartók's Out of Doors suite. Los Angeles Times journalist Mark Swed commended the performance: "Always serious, even glum, he whacked left-hand clusters as imitation drums and skidded across the keyboard in acrobatic fashion, again and again finding deeper and deeper levels of expression in even the slightest of gestures. The Barcarole movement came as close to the representation of fluidity as one is likely to ever encounter from a mechanical keyboard." The following year Lupu returned to the city for a recital of Brahms's epic Piano Sonata no. 3 in F minor, and again won enthusiastic praise. "Rarely has it sounded more impassioned, more spontaneously exhaled than in the mercurial ebb and flow of Lupu's intense vision," remarked Los Angeles Times performance critic John Henken. "He can make the instrument shriek or sigh."

Lupu has added a work from Czech composer Leos Janácek to his repertoire, Sonata 1.x.1905 ("From the Street"), a piece that commemorates a 1905 political demonstration in Janácek's hometown of Brno in which antigovernment protesters died. Lupu performed the piece in Dallas in early 2000, and "made the work an intimate, gripping revelation," according to Dallas Morning News journalist Scott Cantrell. "But then most of his recital had an intensely interior focus. The audience was there not to be entertained, but to be allowed to eavesdrop on something amazing. It was a great privilege."

Lupu made his Seattle debut in early 2001, playing Beethoven's Piano Sonata in C Major ("Waldstein") at Benaroya Hall. The performance was reviewed by Seattle Post-Intelligencer writer R.M. Campbell, who remarked that it was the same piece of music with which Lupu had taken first prize in the 1969 Leeds Competition. "But there is nothing tired or worn about his reading. It is fresh and alive and striking in its originality," Campbell noted. "Lupu's 'Waldstein' was intimate. The listener went to him, for Lupu rarely went to the audience, although when he did, the effect of those thundering fortissimos was awesome. But then so were the pianissimos." Campbell said the performance was suspenseful: "Everything in the work, even its best-known bits, had the air of newness, without eccentricity or artificiality. And it was entirely compelling."

Esteemed Collection of Recorded Work

Though Lupu lives in London, he performs there rarely. His recordings have also been sporadic, though he won a Grammy Award in 1995 for Schubert: Piano Sonatas in B Flat Major and A Major. Another recording of Schubert Lieder, made with Barbara Hendricks, was also well received: "Lupu plays with sensitivity and imagination," asserted Opera News critic Andrew Colton. When he attempted a series of Schumann piano pieces--Humoresque, Kinderszenen,and Kreisleriana--American Record Guide critic Harold C. Schonberg compared him to legendary pianists Vladimir Horowitz and Alfred Denis Cortot. Lupu "knows how to shape a melody without exaggeration, and only the elect have this kind of easy, inevitable flow," Schonberg stated.

Lupu has also recorded Schubert piano works for four hands with Israeli conductor and pianist Daniel Barenboim, which were issued by the Teldec label in the late 1990s. American Record Guide critic Alexander Morin praised the duet. "The three marches are bright and bouncy, and the ingenious and tender variations are skillfully presented. It isn't easy to record piano sound realistically," Morin reminded readers, but found that the engineers in this case had done an admirable job. "These two talented pianists play in sympathy with each other and with the music, and the result is full of charm," Morin concluded.

by Carol Brennan

Radu Lupu's Career

Made concert debuts in New York City, 1967; in London, 1969; and in Berlin, 1971; has since been hailed as a "great" pianist by critics, renowned for both his virtuoso technique and interpretation, especially of Austro-German music; had produced 24 recordings by 2001; continues to make concert appearances with prestigious orchestras around the world.

Radu Lupu's Awards

First prize, Van Cliburn Competition, 1966; Enescu Competition, 1967; Leeds Competition, 1969; Nederlandse Vereniging van Producenten en Importeurs van beeld- en geluidsdragers (Dutch Association of Producers and Importers of Image and Sound Media), Edison Award for Schumann: Kinderszenen, Kreisleriana, Humoresque, 1995; Grammy Award, Best Instrumental Soloist Performance (Without Orchestra) for Schubert: Piano Sonatas in B Flat Major and A Major, 1995.

Famous Works

Further Reading

Sources

Visitor Comments Add a comment…

about 5 years ago

All Schubert lovers are grateful to Radu Lupu for keeping showering on the world the poetry of the great Viennese. I went to a Lupu concert this month. His appearance is that of a quiet, wise grandfather almost oblivious of the hundreds or thousands gathered to witness his magic. He takes his place on his famous office chair and takes you to the spheres where everything is beauty. We love you, Radu.

over 7 years ago

to KATHY SZYMANSKA from Columbia MD just in case you know nothing... Mr. Lupu played everything. He even won the van cliburn with his prokofiev concerto no.2.

about 8 years ago

Heard Lupu several years ago. I've never heard a pianist who could "feather" the keys as he did. Hope to have chance to heaer him again.

over 8 years ago

Pianist without ability to play Chopin is like actor who is afraid to play Shakespeare. Kathy from Columbia MD

over 8 years ago

Hi. I know ive had a little too much to drink. Dont know why I am typing. went to see Radu Lupu on the 9th Dec 05 with my girl, we were going out for a couple of years and were invited through my boss to go to the gig in Dublin. My girl seona had trouble parking and when she arrived the consert had started. i watited outside and we got a g&T each before we could go in to join everyone. we drove home and seona said to me to get some petrol as we passed a station. i did not stop for petrol and kept going home. In the morning she had to leave early and kissed me goodby. She died on the road to her meeting. If i had got petrol she might still be here. the last thing we did together was to see radu lupu, still sticks in my mind how much we enjoyed it, we held hands during the performance. I miss my sweetheard to this day. I moved to NZ as every thing reminded me of Seona, I thought that I could start again, I cant. I still love her and cant seem to get my life back on track. Thats life.

over 8 years ago

Just heard him at Shriver Hall in Baltimore playing 3 Beethoven Sonatas and the Schbert's Sonata in B-flat major. His technical skill needs no mention, but his interpretation, expression were absolutely fantastic, just beautiful. Rita Lehr in Rockville,