jsa | San Diego, CA United States | 05/09/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Claudio Arrau was not well known as a Chopin player when this recording was originally issued in 1973. His most recent recordings of Chopin had been made in the late 1950's, when he set down both books of the etudes for EMI (which were highly regarded by critics), & then signed a new contract with Philips where he focused on Beethoven, Liszt, Brahms & Schumann.
Arrau's Chopin Preludes recital is, in my view, the very best of his Philips Chopin recordings. Arrau's preludes are full of drama, sentiment, tragedy & poetry, all in miniature - a form one didn't necessarily associate with this pianist. Yet, from the oceanic swell of the very first prelude, you realize you are in the hands of a master. The gyrating disquiet of the fourth, the turbulence of the eighth, the joyous eleventh, the intensely rattling twelfth, the ominous thunder of the fourteenth -- no one else I've heard gets this music so right. The sixteenth prelude is a glittering tour de force, followed by a majestic seventeenth, a hammering kaleidescopic eighteenth & gloriously flowing nineteenth. The twenty-second prelude is a smashing, foreboding, titanic thing that ends with a huge rolling chord that only someone like Arrau could play & get away with, whereas the absolutely gorgeous twenty-third receives the full benefit of the pianist's famous autumnal, burnished sound. The last three crashing chords of the turbulent twenty-fourth prelude are a fittingly dramatic end to a truly epic reading of this Chopin masterpiece.
The balance of this disc includes the rarely heard posthumous preludes, which are beautifully played, as well as the four impromptus. Very highly recommended."