Notes and Editorial Reviews
If you're seeking Philips' hard-to-find six-disc "Arrau Edition" boxed set devoted to the late pianist's solo Chopin recordings, it's now repackaged and features an extra disc containing the two Chopin concertos. Arrau's majestic sonority, serious mien, and fastidious attention to detail transport Chopin's music from the intimate salon to the big arena. You'll find little if any of the surface elegance, scintillating display, and sheer charm typical of Chopin players trained in the Slavic tradition. Rather than bring out so-called "inner voices" à la Cortot, Horowitz, Hofmann, or Moiseiwitsch, Arrau always gives shape and specificity to the melodic threads that bind rapid passagework. Cogent examples of this can
be found in Arrau's treatment of the G minor Ballade's scherzando section (starting at measure 138), the B minor Scherzo's coda, the slower-than-usual E-flat minor Prelude, the Op. 42 Waltz, and the rhetorically inflected Impromptus.
The Op. 28 Preludes are projected with large-scale drama, as are the Nocturnes. Arrau considered the latter to be Chopin's most searching, tumultuous works, and his conceptions certainly will challenge listeners used to Artur Rubinstein or Ivan Moravec's lyrical grace and calm introspection. Sometimes Arrau's between-the-line readings impede the music's natural flow, as in the more extroverted Waltzes, the Fourth Scherzo (no match for Richter's light-fingered poise), and the Barcarolle. On the other hand, the F minor Fantasy radiates both momentous drive and heroic breadth in one of Arrau's most inspired recordings of anything.
Some listeners may find the concertos overly ruminative and bass heavy on the soloist's part. Others will discover a richer polyphonic dimension to the piano writing, abetted by Eliahu Inbal's scrupulously prepared orchestral framework, which offers more than mere accompaniment. I detect no sonic differences from the aforementioned 1991 "Arrau Edition" transfers. Note, however, that the Nocturnes, Barcarolle, and Fantasy gain warmth in the higher frequencies and all around presence in 24-bit transfers made for the "Philips 50 Great Recordings" series.
-- Jed Distler, ClassicsToday.com
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