Claudio Arrau

8.99 €

This East Berlin live recital from 1959 captured at a moment in time when Claudio Arrau was in a particularly inspired mood. What we hear in East Berlin is a synthesis of pure poetry, intuitive vision and perfect tension. While Arrau uncovers a mountain of detail, he never gets bogged down in excessive point-making. This recorded live recital was at the peak of Arrau's career and is extremely rare and has never been issued before.


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CLAUDIO ARRAU – The East Berlin Recital 1959

1-3. BEETHOVEN: Piano Sonata No.26 in E-flat Major, Op.81a [17:01]
4-6. SCHUMANN: Fantasie in C Major, Op.17 [34:07]
7-9. DEBUSSY: Pour le piano, L.95 [13:18]
10. LISZT: Mephisto Waltz No.1, HS.514 [11:25]
11. LISZT: Gnomenreigen, Concert Étude No.2, HS.145 [03:10]

Recorded ∙ 08 January 1959 ∙ East Berlin ∙ Metropol-Theater ∙ Rundfunk der DDR ∙ Live Recording

Additional Information

Article number: MC 1010
Release date: 02 May 2014
UPC barcode: 0791154050101
Total time: 79:03

Producer and Audio Restoration: Lynn Ludwig
Booklet Notes: Michael Waiblinger
Design: Alessia Issara
Photographs: George Grantham Bain
With special thanks to Daniel Greenhouse
From the Original Masters ∙ © 2014 Meloclassic

Claudio Arrau was born on February 6, 1903 in Chillan, in central Chile where he showed his musical abilities early. His father, Carlos Arrau, had died before he was a year old, and his mother supported the family by giving piano lessons. When he was 4 years old, Arrau startled his mother by playing from memory some of the pieces her students played at their lessons. He could read music before he could read words, and he gave his first public performance in Santiago — an ambitious program of Mozart, Beethoven and Schumann works — when he was 5 years old. “All I wanted was music,” Arrau once said of his early years. “I was even fed at the piano. Otherwise, it seems, I wouldn’t eat. I used to play with my mouth open, and my mother put food in it.”

At age 9 he was sent on a 10-year long grant from the Chilean government to study in Germany, travelling in the company of his mother and sister Lucrecia. It was there he heard the pianist Teresa Carreno. “From hearing her, I first experienced ease and naturalness in technique,“ said Arrau. “I was taken to all her concerts, and I can remember going backstage and sitting on her lap. She gave me candy and told me to work hard.“ He enrolled in Stern’s Conservatory of Music where he worked with Martin Krause, who had been one of the last students of Franz Liszt, until Krause’s death in 1918. In this period he won many awards, including the first prize in the Rudolph Ibach Competition 1915 (he was the only participating boy), the Gustav Holländer Medal 1915 for young artists and the Liszt Prize 1919 (after 45 years without a first place winner).

Arrau joined the faculty of the Stern Conservatory in 1924 and taught there until 1940. He enjoyed a rarefied atmosphere in Berlin: Among the musicians in his circle were the composers and pianists Ferrucio Busoni and Eugene d’Albert. To return to musical life in Berlin, Busoni had settled there in 1894 and was teacher of Composition at the Academy of Arts. Arrau greatly admired Busoni’s breadth and imagination. His pupil, Kurt Weill, taught Arrau Composition. It was actually Kurt Weill who once remarked, “Pretty Boy Claudio Arrau arrived today with a moustache!” Arrau kept a moustache from the time he grew his first for the rest of his life.

The great Busoni described to him the pedal as being the Soul of The Piano: “Think about that. The Soul of the Piano. Please don’t use it, as so many people do, simply as a crutch. The pedal is the greatest help for colouring. It is the most imaginative of your entire palette of colours. But you must know how to use it correctly in order to produce the colours, which are needed. And remember also, you don’t pedal with your foot – you pedal with your ear. Listen always for the sound you want.“ And Arrau went on: “I will never forget the way he played the Liszt Sonata and the Beethoven ‘Hammerklavier.’ He took great liberties with the music, and that kind of approach I have discarded. But the freedom and the imagination – they have taught me much.“

Arrau made his first records in the 1920s for Telefunken and Parlophone. In 1927 he was called upon to replace the great Schnabel under Klemperer with the Schumann Concerto. At the pianist’s entry of the first subject, on the first page, Klemperer stopped him and said, “You can’t play it like that, Boy. Go to the artists’ room and I will come and speak to you there.” He was so young. Alone in this room he agonised over the situation. “The great Klemperer – do I do what he says? Or do I stay true to what I believe is correct?” He truly agonised over this, but finally decided he must remain true to himself nervously but politely and firmly he finally told the conductor, “Herr Doctor, if I cannot play it like this I cannot play it at all.” Interestingly, Klemperer accepted this outcome and brought him back on stage. (Perhaps the courage and musical integrity of the young man impressed him?)

In 1935 he played the entire keyboard works of Bach in a series of 12 Berlin recitals. Shortly thereafter, he gave up playing Bach in public. In later years, he explained his abandonment of Bach by saying that did not believe that Bach’s music could be realized satisfactorily on the piano. But this year he changed his mind again and recorded four of the six Partitas. After the success of his Bach series, Arrau turned to the complete Mozart keyboard works, which he played in Berlin in 1936. He played his first Beethoven cycle, which included not only the 32 sonatas but the five concertos, in a Mexico City series in 1938. He repeated the Beethoven cycle around the world several times over the next few decades.

Life in Berlin was becoming more and more worrisome under the increasing power of the Nazis and Arrau fled Berlin in 1940 and returned to Chile, where he founded a piano school in Santiago. A year later, he toured the United States again, this time with great success. Olin Downes, reviewing a recital of Mozart, Schumann, Ravel and Debussy works in The New York Times, described Arrau as “a pianist of most exceptional equipment, imagination and unfailing taste.”

After the Nazi experiences, Arrau loved his perception of the vision of freedom in New York, the vibrancy, theatres, museums and their “Freedom of Man” mentality. He hated the provincial American states though. In 1941 Arrau was triumphant at Carnegie Hall. He also secured a recording contract with RCA with whom he did the Bach Goldberg Variations, Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue, Inventions and Sinfonias. Then Landowska arrived in New York and RCA asked him if he would postpone the release of his recording of the Goldberg Variations. Arrau agreed because he had huge admiration for Landowska and also had a nagging doubt himself about playing Bach on the piano. In the meantime he had signed with CBC. When he finally listened to the RCA master tapes he found that he was absolutely happy with them. He decided that Bach could indeed be well played on the piano, so long as one knew how.

He visited India in 1956 and played in Japan for the first time in 1965. But he stopped performing in Chile after 1967, in protest first against the Socialist Government of President Salvador Allende Gossens, and later against the authoritarian rule of Gen. Augusto Pinochet, who overthrew Allende. In 1977, he played a highly publicized benefit concert for Amnesty International that raised $190,000. He ended his boycott in 1984, when he returned to Santiago for his first performance in Chile in 17 years. At that concert, which was broadcast throughout Chile, he received a 12-minute standing ovation. Arrau donated his earnings from the concert to a scholarship fund for Latin American musicians that he set up in 1967 in his name. In his late years he lived in Munich. Arrau was in Austria for what was to have been his first performance in two years, a private recital to open a museum in Mürzzuschlag, Austria, 60 miles south of Vienna. He had stopped performing in June 1989 after the death of his wife, Ruth Schneider, a German-born mezzo-soprano, whom he married in 1937.

Arrau died June 9, 1991 in Mürzzuschlag, from complications of emergency surgery to correct an intestinal blockage.

© Michael Waiblinger 2014

Claudio Arrau was the teacher of Karlrobert Kreiten, who was one of the most talented young pianists in Germany. Kreiten was reported to the Gestapo by Nazi neighbour about making negative remarks about Hitler and the war effort. He was indicted and condemned to death. Friends and family frantically tried to save his life, but to no avail. The family only accidentally learned that Kreiten had been executed by hanging, with 185 other inmates, at Plötzensee prison in 1943. Arrau said once “Kreiten was one of the greatest piano talents whom I have met in person. If he had not been executed by the Nazi regime shortly before the war ended, he would, no doubt, taken his place as one of the greatest German pianist. He belonged to the lost generation that would have been able to follow in the German piano tradition after Kempff and Gieseking”

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