Claudio Arrau

Steinway Legends: Claudio Arrau

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While only a deaf man would deny the stunning luminosity of Steinway pianos and the staggering virtuosity of Claudio Arrau, only a blind man would fail to recognize that the recordings on this two-disc set devoted to Arrau performing on a Steinway are a decidedly mixed bag. Because while to a greater or lesser extent all these recordings could be described as magnificent, they are not necessarily the most impressive recordings Arrau ever made. For one thing, some of them are incredibly old -- the recording of Balakirev's Islamey dates from circa 1927 -- so while Arrau's performance is amazingly virtuosic, the sound is perforce incredibly antique. For another thing, some of them are surprisingly leaden -- the recording of Mozart's A minor Rondo is exquisite but much too slow -- so while Arrau's performance is quite moving, it is also hard to listen to more than once without growing impatient. But most of all, the repertoire seems oddly chosen -- the recordings of Chopin's Impromptus are superb, but why not his sublime Nocturnes or Preludes? the recording of Schumann's Faschingsschwank aus Wein is exciting, but why not his transcendent Fantasie in C major? -- so while Arrau's performances are all impressive, his performances of other works are even more impressive. For listeners looking for an overview of Arrau's playing, try his entries in Philips' Great Pianists of the Twentieth Century series, which are better chosen and much more representative of his genius as a pianist.

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