Arrau's long-pondered, lovingly evolved reading takes us closer to the center of Beethoven's visionary world.
The security of Arrau's technique, the continuing fullness of tone and the fine gradations of touch, is nothing less than astonishing. So too is the mature accommodation he has come to with Beethoven's endlessly problematic C minor Concerto. Arrau's earliest recording of the concerto, with Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra in 1947, may have been more brilliant (though, from the orchestra's point of view, more slapdash) but this long-pondered, lovingly evolved reading takes us much closer to the idealizing centre of Beethoven's visionary world; and does so, incidentally, in a way that could not be approachedRead more in 1000 years by the authenticity merchants with their pygmy instruments and tedious lists of contemporary metronome markings. Even where Arrau may seem a trifle staid, as in the finale, the insights, controlling and controlled, are ample compensation, consistent with the reading as a whole. And it is a relief now to have the finale on the same disc as the two previous movements, which wasn't the case with the complete set issued in January. The pause between the slow movement and finale is perfectly judged: an attacca would be impossible after Arrau's profound reading of the Largo but, equally, we are spared a statutory eight second gap.
The accompaniment provided by Davis and the Staatskapelle Dresden is again an object lesson in the art of accompaniment. Sir Colin has always been an apt partner for this most humane and farsighted of pianists and the Dresden orchestra's musical roots are in the same earth as Arrau's own. The recording of the concerto is exemplary in its clarity, bloom, and fine balances, and the F major Piano Sonata, one of Beethoven's own particular favourites, comes off the page and the keyboard with great immediacy and searching good humour.
Naturally, Arrau takes the second—development and recapitulation—repeat in the first movement of the sonata, and produces precisely that effect of deepening understanding, of lyrical unity won from diversity, that Tovey (warning that Beethoven rarely makes an unnecessary repeat) promises the patient player or listener. The central F minor Allegretto becomes in Arrau's hands both a dance interlude and a surrogate slow movement. His account of the presto finale is robust and vital. The repeat here is more problematic, with its lurching return from the F major close to the flattened mediant, but one is left in no doubt of the scale of the sonata, which genuinely complements the concerto rather than merely filling up space in its wake.
The Kempff (DG) and Perahia (CBS) discs both add the Fourth Piano Concerto. This may seem more substantial but the Arrau record gives us a vast amount to ponder in its 57 minutes' duration.
Above all, it leaves us in no doubt as to Beethoven's special stature at a time when some infashion interpreters are busy rationalizing their own lack of technique or vision by putting Beethoven firmly in his place as a contemporary of Haydn and Czerny
Concerto for Piano no 3 in C minor, Op. 37by Ludwig van Beethoven Performer:
Claudio Arrau (Piano)
Sir Colin Davis
Period: Classical Written: 1800; Vienna, Austria
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