When this reissue of Claudio Arrau's 1973 recording of Chopin's preludes was released by Philips, it was the third reissue of that particular recording released that year. PentaTone, the astoundingly clean Dutch label, had released a disc coupling Arrau's 1973 recording of Chopin's preludes with his 1974 recording of Schumann's Papillons, and Philips, the great Dutch label itself, had released an eight-disc set of all Arrau's postwar Chopin recording for them. Of course, Arrau's preludes are uniformly ineffably beautiful, perhaps a little slow sometimes, but with such effortless technique, such tonal opulence, and such poetic soulfulness that it only serves to grant the listener more time to contemplate the heights and depths. The sound from all three issues presents different aspects of recorded perfection: the PentaTone may be somewhat clearer, but all three incarnate in their zillions of zeros and ones in breathtakingly real representations of a real piano in a real room in real time and real space.
So, which of the three to get? It depends on the coupling: this Philips disc presents Arrau's preludes plus his 1980 Impromptus -- giving the listener a concentrated dose of Arrau's way with Chopin -- while the PentaTone includes Papillons -- giving the listener a broader view of Arrau's art -- and the Philips set duplicates the program single disc and adds seven more discs full of Arrau's Chopin -- giving the listener the core of a great Chopin collection. But whatever the incarnation, any listener interested in the music of the greatest solo Romantic piano music ever composed should hear Arrau's preludes.