Claudio Arrau

Schumann: Kinderszenen, Op. 15; Brahms: Paganini Variations, Op. 35

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AllMusic Review by

The piano is among the most difficult instruments to record well. With its quick attack and release, complex fundamentals, and rich overtones, the actual sound of a real piano in a real place in real time has only been captured by the very best recording companies. No label, before or after, captured the sound of a piano in full flight as well as Philips did in the '60s and '70s. Listeners were amazed at the vividness and immediacy of their piano recordings, which were held to be the industry standard by the majority of critics.

As good as Philips' piano recordings sounded then, they sound even better transferred to compact disc by PentaTone. In this super audio disc featuring the masterful Claudio Arrau performing Schumann's Kinderszenen and Brahms' Paganini Variations, the illusion of reality is complete. It's not that Arrau and his piano appear in the room with the listener, it's that the listener seems to be in the Concertgebouw, the recording venue, about 10 feet away from the performer, hearing everything with a clarity that words can only approximate. The effect is staggering and well worth hearing by anyone who appreciates great recorded sound.

The performances are just as impressive. Arrau's golden tone, refined technique, rich colors, and passionately emotional interpretations are unsurpassed. His Kinderszenen is full of warmth and affection, while his Paganini Variations is stuffed with breathtaking virtuosity. When Arrau's performances are captured in PentaTone's sound, the result is one of the finest piano recordings ever released.

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