Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
|Ludwig van Beethoven, Johannes Brahms, Claudio Arrau|
Live recordings of the great pianist Claudio Arrau include definitive interpretations from Arrau's core repertoire. Original source tapes were used for the digital transfer. Arrau's brilliance lay in the fact that he did n... more »
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Live recordings of the great pianist Claudio Arrau include definitive interpretations from Arrau's core repertoire. Original source tapes were used for the digital transfer. Arrau's brilliance lay in the fact that he did not embrace flamboyant virtuosity for its own sake, but chose to present the works of his beloved masters simply, beautifully, and with intellectual honesty. Thus, here he is heard in a live concert performance playing the works of the composers he loved most.
Great Arrau recitals from 1963 & 1973
jsa | San Diego, CA United States | 07/14/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Since the death of Claudio Arrau in 1991, there has been a steady stream of outstanding concert performances released on cd's - releases that Arrau himself most certainly would never have sanctioned. It was not that Arrau was concerned that recitals were rarely note perfect, but instead that performance carried the risk of musical distortion. A Gramophone critic, when reviewing Arrau's set of Beethoven concertos made with Bernard Haitink in the 1960's, recapped a conversation he had with the pianist on this subject:
"Claudio Arrau in the concert hall is universally acknowledged as one of the world's really great master pianists, a thinker as well as a virtuoso: Claudio Arrau on record seems to come in a different category, a sober, almost too calculating pianist whose technical brilliance is a constant delight but who somehow remains detached.....Only this summer I met Arrau for the first time...and suggested to him that records of his live concert performances might have an extra intensity. He was adamant in refusing any such suggestion. In any of his live performances, he claimed, there were points which would be utterly unacceptable on a record--not actual errors perhaps but rather exaggerations of rubato that would not stand repetition. I tried to assure him that in such live recordings the listener can effectively project himself into the position of a member of the actual audience and be carried away too, but he was unconvinced. His studio performances, he insisted, had to be different from his concert performances. Exactly, I said to myself, and that would account for the coldness I have so often lamented."
A few years later (1972), in another Gramophone interview, Arrau put the difference between live performance and studio recording this way:
"Live performances are, of course, more spontaneous, and they change from day to day. Out of all these experiences you try in the studio to distill the essence and this gives you a great sense of responsibility. Of course, it worries me not having an audience but I like recording none the less. You have to pull yourself together to present something that may be valid for a long time."
The present 2-cd set of Schwetzingen Festival recitals, recorded in 1963 and 1973, is a prime example of the difference between Arrau's studio recordings and live performances. The playing is energetic, rhapsodic and even edgy in a way that's often missing from the pianist's stately, more controlled, studio readings. The first disc, recorded in 1963, opens with Beethoven's op. 51 Rondo, something you don't often hear in recital. It's a pleasant warm-up for what's to come, Beethoven's op. 101 piano sonata, material which Arrau especially excelled at. While this reading has essentially the same footprint as the Philips recording made in 1965, the emphatic push and pull of the studio version, while very effective and dramatic, is toned down in recital; instead there is more urgency to the playing and the music seems to speak more for itself. The same can be said for Brahms' Handel Variations, which Arrau had played in recital for decades before making his Philips recording in 1978. The studio version is good, but it has a studied feel to it and lacks the excitement of the Schwetzingen Festival reading. (Even better is a truly titanic concert performance made a week earlier, recorded for Radiotelevisione della Svizzera Italiana and issued on the Ermitage label. In fact, this entire recital is incredible, with Arrau spinning out a gorgeous Gaspard de la Nuit - his only performance of all three movements on record - and also delivering a blockbuster Mephisto Waltz.)
The second disc, taken from Arrau's appearance at the 1973 festival, includes Beethoven sonatas no. 3 and 23, both of which were long-term staples of his concert repertory. I have always thought Arrau's Philips recording of both sonatas to be outstanding, but they are superceded by these recital performances. As Peter Cosse points out in his insightful liner notes, the Appassionata captured here is really something else. "I have not yet known this musician, rather pensive in his old age and tending toward melancholy in conversation, to be so impulsive, so 'beside himself.'" Indeed this is one of the great Arrau performances on disc."
Puzzled by Arrau's reputation? Buy this disc!
John Grabowski | USA | 02/06/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Some people who have been raised on a diet of Arrau's Philips digital recordings, which can be slow and cautious, are amazed to hear he was supposedly thrilling in concert. If you have doubts, just get this two-disc set of performances from 1963 and 1973. Here, in a tremendously difficult program that includes Beethoven's Op. 101, which most pianists will tell you is the hardest sonata in Ludwig's canon, the great Chilean master shines as he often did not in the studio (although in fairness, he was better there than many of his detractors give him credit for).
Arrau really brings sparkle and joy to the Handel Variations. I positively love his take on variation 12. And just listen to the piano ring out on variation 22! Unlike in some of Arrau's performances of variations (Beethoven's Diabellis, both the Columbia mono and the Philips stereo, though the latter more so) where I don't feel he doesn't distinguish enough among the different episodes, here he does, giving them each a distinct character while keeping everything gloriously unified. The Op. 101 and Op. 10/3 are also great readings. He digs into the dark slow movement of the D major sonata like I've never heard, with fabulously rich bass notes and yet utter *clarity,* and an utterly relentless buildup of despair, reminding me of Furtwangler's approach to many great symphonic works. (I would have loved to see an Arrau/Furtwangler collaboration on record.) The Op. 101 sonata doesn't suffer from the stiffness and "correctness" of his studio recordings, where Arrau seemed obsessed more by perfection at the expensive sometimes of expressivity and excitement. Here the rubato and give-and-take between the two hands result in relaxed poetry that gives this a very autumnal feeling, just perfect for the sort of work it is. And the energy level on all these works--except to me the Appassionata--is higher than anything he did in the studio. His EMI performance (mono) of Beethoven's Op. 57 still stands out to me as his most thrilling account of that work, and here I feel, after a promising beginning, he maybe runs out of a little steam in the first movement development. (I say maybe because this has bothered me less and less with each listening, and the bass notes are well-recorded, so you really get that burnished tone--almost organ-like, as Colin Davis once described it--that makes his conception work so well for this piece.) Still, this is better than his later Philips analogue, though that has many fine moments too, his Philips digital, which isn't worth your time, and a live performance on the Italian "Aura" bootleg label that seems to have disappeared. And the EMI is, very sadly, no longer available, so this is your best Arrau Appassionata currently on the market. Which makes it a no-brainer in my view, since he's one of the greatest interpreters of this piece.
And this set is another very welcome addition to the Arrau catalog. Sound is also very good, though it's more brilliant on the first disc (recorded in 1963) and a bit more dampened and somewhat distorted on the second (recorded ten years later). Oddly, the older sound is better. Still, this is well-recorded overall, and if you love Arrau, Beethoven and Brahms or just piano recitals, this should be on your very very short list.