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Decca Phase 4
Frédéric CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Piano Sonata No. 3 in B minor, Op. 38 (1844)
[33’19]; Fantasy in F minor, Op. 49 (1841)
Carl Maria von WEBER (1786-1826)
Konzertstück in F minor, Op. 79 (1821) [18'20]*
Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)
Andante and Rondo capriccioso, Op. 14 [6'50]
Philharmonia Orchestra/Alceo Galliera*
rec. No. 3 Studio, Abbey Road, London, 14-21
April 1960 (Chopin), 30 June 1951 (Mendelssohn),
No. 1 Studio, Abbey Road, London, 19 April 1960 (Weber).
EMI CLASSICS GREAT
RECORDINGS OF THE CENTURY 5 62884 2 [72:11]
Claudio Arrau's Chopin enjoys something of classic status,
and here are two perfect examples of why this is so. The
Sonata has an identifiable rightness to it from the very
first note. Steeped in Arrau's experience - not to mention
the tradition he represents - the pianist presents the work
with a seemingly contradictory mixture of restraint and power.
His sonority is deep indeed, yet his lines can be limpid
and there is a seamless flow to the first movement. The transcendental
coda finds everything in perfect balance.
To this essential meeting of restraint and power, Arrau adds
fantasy in the Scherzo. He scampers with a facility to match
the very best, but that core strength is still there. Most
impressive of all is the calm stillness of the Largo, the
perfect foil for the magisterial finale. The 1960 recording
seems very slightly shallow but still conveys every nuance
of the Master's playing.
The Fantasy opens with huge gravitas. Arrau's structural
grasp convinces one while listening that this interpretation
is without parallel. This is huge, rich playing and is an
interpretation that reveals more the more one hears it. There
is no sense of rush, ever, giving the chords just after the
five-minute work real weight - they immediately precede the
The Weber begins with the Philharmonia's winds on top form.
Clearly something special is going on; Arrau matches the
orchestra - the strings have a silken sheen to them - with
his characteristic warm tone and a true sense of fantasy.
The many moods of this piece are expertly presented, from
the simply sweet to the overtly celebrational. Arrau positively
sparkles in the final section (Presto giocoso). The
articulation is jaw-dropping – this final section is worth
the price of the disc alone. Only a slight muddiness begins
to inform the recording; track 9, around 3:10-15 – surprising,
given that the producer of the Weber was Walter Legge.
Finally, some Mendelssohn that can only be described as miraculous.
The cantabile of the Andante has to be heard to be believed;
the ensuing elfin right-hand staccato in the main section
is not only a delight but also an object lesson in technique.
The virtuoso élan of the final pages brings to rest what
must surely be one of the jewels of the EMI GROCs.
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