Among connoisseurs of pianists of the last century, I have heard little disagreement that one of the finest, a supreme interpreter, intellectual giant and technician of staggering control, was Chilean pianist Claudio Arrau.
There was such physical strength and certainty to his playing, especially of Beethoven's work, that, in my youth, he seemed to dominate the horizons of insight. A testament to that can be heard in the wonderful performances from a concert Arrau gave in Stockholm in 1960, a live recording of Beethoven's last two sonatas, opus 110 in A flat major and opus 111 in C. Arrau's strength, which was a question more of weight than of power, permeates his playing of opus 110, especially in Beethoven's reiteration of one chord over a relentless crescendo in the finale. And his liberation of the finale of opus 111, with expressivity set free of the bar line, results in complete transcendence. Phenomenal, with the Appassionata (Piano Sonata No 23, opus 57) thrown in for good measure.
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