For listeners who thought that the better of Beethoven's two "fantasy sonatas" Op. 27 is the better known "Moonlight," try this disc. For listeners for thought that the best recording of Schumann's monumental Fantasy in C major Opus 17 was Sviatoslav Richter's, try this disc. And for listeners who thought that a recording of Schoenberg's atonal Klavierstücke (3), Op. 11, has yet to be made that could make those agonizing pieces listenable, try this disc.
Because Claudio Arrau will prove you wrong every time. With his October 1960 live recording of Beethoven's Op. 27/1, Arrau has turned in a performance of such wit, such charm, such fancy, and such delight that one forgets all about Op. 27/2. And with his live recording from the same concert of Schumann's Op. 17, Arrau has turned in a performance of such passion, such panache, such virtuosity, and such love, that one forgets all about Richter's performance. But it is with his March 1959 recording of Schoenberg's Op. 11 that Arrau turns in the biggest revelation on this disc. Of course, one never knew that Arrau could even play atonal music, much less play it with the same compassion and command that he brought to Beethoven and Schumann. But, then, one never knew that anyone could play Schoenberg so compassionately and so commandingly that his agonizing piano pieces could sound as completely and utterly compelling as they do in Arrau's recording. The monaural sound of these antique recordings is more than acceptable, but Arrau's performances are more than inestimable. They are invaluable.