Although Claudio Arrau had impressive credentials as a Liszt player - his only teacher was Martin Krause, who was a student of Liszt - and he performed many of the composer's works early in his career, he neither exploited this association, nor became known as a Liszt specialist. Perhaps this was because Krause warned him not to become a specialist in the music of any one composer, urging him instead to embrace all music. Consequently, the younger Arrau's repertoire was very large; however, as he grew older he concentrated on fewer composers, moving as it were from the universal to the particular applying almost prophetic insight into certain scores, especially those of Beethoven and Liszt.
Pollini's traversal of Chopin's 19 Nocturnes (he leaves out the pair of posthumous ones) is one of his finest recordings in years. His long-lined yet detailed performances are comparable to the very different ones that have long stood at the pinnacle of recorded sets. Not as serene as Artur Rubinstein's, not as philosophical as Claudio Arrau's, nor as warm as Ivan Moravec's, Pollini's interpretations have their own allure. One is the way he shapes the melodies with a natural flow enhanced by his tonal beauty, less lean and streamlined than his usual way with Romantic music.
This selection received a Grammy nomination for "Best Classical Album" and "Best Instrumental Soloist Performance (without Orchestra)." The comparative simplicity of Chopin's Op. 28 Preludes (when placed against his Etudes, for example) and their status as "miniatures" often hide the fact that they are, in fact, extremely demanding pieces, especially in interpretation. These works, probably written in homage to Johann Sebastian Bach's 'Well-Tempered Clavier,' have been the eminent domain of such great pianists as Artur Rubinstein, Vladimir Horowitz and Claudio Arrau. The Preludes now belong to young Evgeny Kissin.
This Final Sessions release captures Arrau's tone better than any CD album I have heard. From the intial English Suites, all four of which were recorded during Arrau's Debussy sessions in Switzerland. The Beethoven is from Arrau's final Beethoven cycle, left incomplete at the time of his death and vary somewhat from his 60's set containig the concerto's and variations. The Schubert is wonderful. I can imagine a better vehicle for Arrau's wonderful sound and legato than D894. The Debussy, attainable only on Warner France, is also very incitful. Arrau does not subscribe to the Gieseking haze, but rather combines a germanic profundity with Michelangli's precision.
Almost four hours of music constitutes exceptional value especially when, tucked away among a selection of Mazurkas, is Chopin's early "Variations on a German National Air". Vásáry charms you into wondering why it is so rarely heard.
Deep thought, care and love pervade this newest contribution to Arrau's Schumann cycle, just as they did all the others. The discovery for me was the Blumenstück, which if played at all (it isn't often) so easily emerges like some pretty but pale little drawing-room aquarelle. But not from Arrau. Characteristically, he reads between the lines of every bar, and discovers as much to express as in any of Schumann's wholly introspective pieces. I was amazed at the variety of mood he extracts from the work's not greatly varied figuration throughout the sequence of brief, closely related sections.
This set offers Chopin's most famous and best loved piano expertly played by Tamas Vasary.
Tamás Vásáry (born August 11, 1933, Debrecen, Hungary) is a Hungarian pianist. Vásáry gave his first public performances at the age of 8. He studied with Ernő Dohnányi and Józef Gát at the Franz Liszt Academy of Music in Budapest, and was later assistant there to Zoltán Kodály, who made him a gift of a Steinway piano.