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Notes and Editorial Reviews
Whoever curated the two-disc compilation in Universal Classics' Steinway Legends set devoted to Claudio Arrau did an outstanding job, notwithstanding the fact that the early-1950s Decca recordings represented here date from the great pianist's brief affiliation with Baldwin pianos! The selections address Arrau's wide-ranging repertoire proclivities and showcase the pianist at different times over the course of his long career.
Effortless virtuosity and classy bravura characterize Arrau at 25 in his celebrated 1928 recording of Balakirev's terrifyingly difficult Islamey. Seth Winner's new transfer boasts quieter surfaces and more amplitude than heard in previous reissues, although to my ears Ward Marston's noisier
transfer gives a clearer sense of room tone and note attacks. We then jump ahead to the aforementioned Decca material.
Chopin fans who like their Impromptus served up with charm, lightness, and poetic intimacy (Horszowski's Vox recordings of similar vintage, for example) may not warm to Arrau's serious-minded soul searching (he's a Callas, not a Sutherland). Mozart's A minor Rondo also typifies Arrau's gravitas and full-throated projection of decorative passages. Schubert's Allegretto D. 915 receives no less intense an interpretation, yet boasts a forward-moving urgency we don't often find in Arrau's later studio recordings. Arrau's Schumann sometimes could be bogged down or fussy (his Kreisleriana, Waldszenen, and Symphonic Etudes for example), but emphatically not in his 1968 recording of Faschingsschwank aus Wien. You get all the fire, passion, and authority of Michelangeli and Richter without their capricious dynamic emendations.
The big news for collectors concerns this first official CD transfer of the Decca Beethoven Eroica Variations. As a performance, it's more vital and direct than the pianist's more pulled about 1968 Philips traversal, yet it's just as fastidious in regard to voice leading, dynamics, and phrasing, and more emotionally involved than in his earlier, relatively dry shellac version for Victor. Similar attention to detail prevents Arrau's massive, bardic approach to the same composer's "Moonlight" sonata from turning heavy-handed.
Lastly, no Arrau anthology would be complete without his titanic Liszt playing. Arrau relates to the B minor sonata as Laurence Olivier did to Hamlet, and you can read my detailed comments about this 1970 reference recording by typing Q6817 in Search Reviews. For an all-around overview of Claudio Arrau's singular artistry, you can't do better than this release. [10/4/2006]
--Jed Distler, ClassicsToday.com Read less
Works on This Recording
Average Customer Review: ( 1 Customer Review )
The great pianist from Chile January 20, 2013
By Frederick Hecht (Scottsdale, AZ) See All My Reviews
"I purchased this album because of its modest price, not expecting too much, but discovered again why I loved Arrau's playing when I saw and heard him play years ago. His virtuosity shines in Balakirev's Islamey and his pianistic poetry in Faschingsschwank aus Wien. All in all, a finely selected collection by Arrau."