Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
|Ludwig van Beethoven, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Franz [Vienna] Schubert|
Steinway Legends: Claudio Arrau
Listen to Samples
The producers could have done a better job
jsa | San Diego, CA United States | 06/25/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Although there are some distinguished recordings in this two cd anthology, it was disappointing to see others that in my view are not among the best that Claudio Arrau had to offer, especially since there are so many truly great recordings from this pianist to choose from.
Let's start with the outstanding things that are here: Since Arrau was a great Beethoven pianist, the inclusion of his long unavailable 1952 reading of the Eroica Variations, a real knockout, was an inspired choice. The playing is tight, direct (almost percussive) & bristles with energy compared to the more relaxed reading made for Philips in 1968. (Maybe some other enterprising archivist will resurrect Arrau's blistering reading of Beethoven's C minor variations recorded in mono for the English Columbia label & last appeared decades ago on harmonia mundi.)
Arrau's recording of the Liszt sonata quickly attained classic status when it was released in 1970, a time when the pianist was identified so closely with Beethoven that it was virtually forgotten that he was a great Lisztian & that his only teacher, Martin Krause, was a pupil of Liszt himself. No one got this music the way Arrau did & hearing (& watching) him play it in recital, which I was fortunate enough to have done several times, was an incredible musical experience.
Balakirev's Islamey, recorded in 1928, is another knockout with the 25 year old Arrau delivering a tour de force performance that also reflects an innate feel for the poetic. Just listen to the way he handles the gorgeous interlude connecting the outer bravura sections of this work -- pure enchantment.
Now for the not so great: Why, for example, did the producers include a warhorse like the Moonlight sonata, which, contrary to the liner notes, Arrau rarely played in recital (except as part of the many sonata cycle performances early in his career) & of which there are hundreds of recordings available? And apparently since no respectable piano anthology can be without Chopin, I wonder what the producers were thinking when they tossed the Impromptus into the mix rather than Arrau's 1977 Philips reading of the op. 49 Fantasy which is arguably among the greatest Chopin recordings of all time. Or why not a selection from his 1956 traversal of the etudes, which EMI still justifiably includes in their "Great Recordings of the Century" series? Arrau may have recorded the Impromptus twice, and the version here from 1953 certainly holds more interest than the Philips remake, but this is not music that I would say is particularly representative of this pianist.
Arrau recorded all of Schumann's major works and his Faschingsschwank aus Wien, while exhibiting a tendency towards the annoying micro luft-pauses that affected some of the pianist's studio work in the 1960's, is nevertheless pretty good; however, the sparkling Abegg Variations is an overlooked gem in Arrau's recorded legacy that would have been a more inspired choice. And since the producers were willing to mine such early territory as Islamey, too bad they didn't include Arrau's titanic 1933 reading of Liszt's Spanish Rhapsody. Finally, the Mozart and Schubert pieces add little, in my opinion, to this compilation.
To their credit, the producers didn't limit themselves to music recorded on Steinway pianos (Arrau was a Baldwin artist until switching to Steinway in the late 50's/early 60's); and an effort was made to include recordings that have long been unavailable. Thus, despite my concerns, I would still recommend this set as an introduction to those who are new to the playing of this truly great pianist."