‘Claudio Arrau in Concert’ - Chopin - 24 Preludes, Op 28; Schumann - Etudes symphoniques, Op 13
Claudio Arrau pf
APR APR5631 Buy now
(76' . ADD)
Recorded live during the Prague Spring Festival in 1960 and 1976.
APR launch their ‘Claudio Arrau in Concert’ series with some wholly characteristic Chopin and Schumann taken live from the 1960 and 1976 Prague Spring Festivals. How instantly recognisable is that rich, velvet-tipped sonority, that breadth and commitment, that taking of nothing for granted. Throughout the Chopin Preludes Arrau’s rubato is personal and intense, a far cry from a more conventional or superficial grace. Even the most delicate and fragrant miniature is given with weight and significance and in the more savagely demanding Preludes (Nos 8 and 16, for example) his pianism is of an awe-inspiring mastery releasing storms of pent-up fury. For Arrau the Preludes ‘answer each other’, evolving a fluid if wildly fluctuating argument, their drama increased by such a sense of continuity. In No 14 his sombre allegro is far removed from a more familiar presto whirl (the Oxford edition is marked Largo and has been recorded by Arrau’s one-time student Garrick Ohlsson for Arabesque, 10/93). Ornaments are spread lavishly across the bar (‘they are,’ argues Arrau, ‘part of the melodic line’) rather than given a neater accommodation and, thoughout, the manner is tirelessly searching and involved.
In Schumann’s Etudes symphoniques all repeats are observed, the tempos are stately, the additional etudes are scattered freely throughout and the finale is performed in its original rather than traditionally cut version. All this is very different to more recent, streamlined alternatives. For some, such fidelity can make the work elephantine, but if Arrau’s detractors find his performance unduly ponderous and introverted (Arrau never took things lightly: ‘some pianists – they play all lacy!’) others will recognise a unique power and grandeur. The recordings have come up remarkably well and both the performances provide much food for thought.