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Claudio Arrau – Virtuoso Philosopher of the Piano
Track-listing at end of review
Claudio Arrau (piano)
rec. 1939-62. ADD
EMI CLASSICS ICON 9184322 [12 CDs: c. 15:00:00]

Experience Classicsonline

This big 12 CD set is part of EMI’s Icon series. I’ve dipped into it, but have not listened to everything.

Firstly a necessary word about transfers. Very little here has been remastered specially for this box. I noted only two Beethoven sonatas in disc 4; the Op.10 No.3 and Op.78, and the Schubert Allegretto D915 and the little March D606, which are both to be found in the ninth disc. Additionally the transfers of the classic Schumann and Grieg concerto disc derive from Testament’s release of this material. Everything else dates back variously to releases in 1988, 1991, 2001 and 2004 and the like. If you find this situation not to your liking you will have to wait until a similarly comprehensive collection arrives with newer restorations, or cherry pick things from Arrau’s recorded legacy that most interest you. For the more general listener, this very competitively priced box offers an opportunity to hoover a large chunk of his c.1955-62 recordings, adding the pre-war Schumann Carnaval, which was put onto 78s in April 1938, the Chopin Tarantelle similarly, and the two Debussy pieces which followed a year later.

The set therefore concentrates on mid-period Arrau. Companies such as Marston have brought out editions devoted to his earliest recordings on 78, and the later recordings, for example concerto collaborations with Haitink and Colin Davis, are very well known. Which is not to say that these EMI recordings aren’t well enough known; they certainly are.

This then is an outline of what you’ll find in this box. There’s the 1955-58 cycle of the Beethoven concertos with the Philharmonia and Galliera .in which Arrau excavates a myriad of bass detailing and plays with a measured assurance not always shared by Galliera.

There are nine sonatas including the Appassionata, Waldstein, Les Adieux, Opp.110 and 111, EMI capturing the pianist in a mix of mono and stereo. One can contrast these examples of his 1950s with the Philips recordings of all 32 sonatas made in the 1960s. In the main he is a touch more determined and measured in the later performances, though Philips’ sound is certainly better. His Appassionata is perhaps the very best of the Icon sonatas – intensity, rugged selflessness, a broad conception but one that he sustains perfectly according to his lights. But running it close is op. 101, in which conception and execution are in perfect accord, and the tonal qualities he evinces are wholly impressive. So too for that matter the last two sonatas, brilliantly realised, intense, nobly powerful, shorn of all artifice and false gestures.

Both Brahms concertos are with Giulini, and they show both soloist and conductor in lingering, and loving form - too much so really, as the powerful romanticism generated tends to work against the two concertos’s more direct qualities. The Tchaikovsky, Grieg and Schumann are with Galliera. The Schumann is finely played, though perhaps a little dour overall. The Grieg is not Arrau’s finest hour, and his elastic phrasing tends to pull it about far too much. One wouldn’t immediately turn to Arrau for Tchaikovsky and indeed one’s presentiment that there will be a lack of brilliance and bravura is rather borne out. Disc nine is devoted wholly to Schubert – the D946 Klavierstücke, the Wanderer Fantasy and the aforementioned Allegretto and March, but there is also the D780 Moments Musicaux. Also the Third Chopin sonata and F minor Fantasie, both outstandingly well done, and all the Etudes.

Finally, you might want to read my review of Carnaval with differing couplings, but a similarly disappointing Schumann concerto, in its Naxos release and in a competing ‘Early’ Arrau two disc set from Marston. There’s also the Chopin Etudes in the same EMI transfer.

Conclusion time: if you’re content with older remasterings, which are pretty reasonable, than you can confidently acquire this box. It has central Arrau repertoire in mostly outstanding performances. It’s also exceptional value for money.

Jonathan Woolf

Track-listing

CD 1 [78:58]
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN 1770-1827
Piano Concerto No. 1 in C, Op.15
[1] I. Allegro con brio 16.24
[2] II. Largo 10.55
[3] III. Rondo: Allegro scherzando 9.25
Piano Concerto No. 2 in B flat, Op.19
[4] I. Allegro con brio 14.04
[5] II. Adagio 9.02
[6] III. Rondo: Molto allegro 6.33
Philharmonia Orchestra/Alceo Galliera
Recorded: 1 - 3.V. and 7.X.1958, No. 1, Abbey Road Studios, London
Producer: Walter Legge
Balance engineer: Harold Davidson & Francis Dillnutt
Recordings first issued in 1959 & *1960 by EMI Records Ltd. STEREO/ADD
32 Variations in C minor, WoO.80 12.23
[7]
Recorded: 13.IV.1960, No. 3, Abbey Road Studios, London
Producer: Walter Jellinek
Balance engineer: Harold Davidson
(P) 1961 EMI Records Ltd. STEREO/ADD

CD 2 [76:20]
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN
Piano Concerto No. 3 in C minor, Op.37
[1] I. Allegro con brio 16.53
[2] II. Largo 10.58
[3] III. Rondo: Allegro - Presto 9.24
Piano Concerto No. 5 in E flat, Op.73 "Emperor"
[4] I. Allegro 20.29
[5] II. Adagio un poco mosso 7.47
[6] III. Rondo: Allegro - Piů allegro 10.42
Philharmonia Orchestra/Alceo Galliera
Recorded: 19 - 22.VI.1958, No. 1, Abbey Road Studios, London
Producer: Walter Legge
Balance engineer: Douglas Larter
Recordings first issued in 1959 by EMI Records Ltd. STEREO/ADD
This compilation and digital remastering (P) 1991 by EMI Records Ltd.

CD 3 [79:15]
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN
Piano Concerto No. 4 in G, Op.58
[1] I. Allegro moderato 19.14
[2] II. Andante con moto - 5.38
[3] III. Rondo: Vivace - Presto 10.06
Philharmonia Orchestra/Alceo Galliera
Recorded: 30 & 31.V.1955, No. 1, Abbey Road Studios, London
Producer: Walter Jellinek
Balance engineer: Neville Boyling
Recording first issued in 1956 by EMI Records Ltd. MONO/ADD
Digital remastering (P) 1991 by EMI Records Ltd.
Piano Sonata No. 21 in C major, Op. 53 "Waldstein"
[4] I. Allegro con brio 12.11
[5] II. Introduzione: Adagio molto - 4.17
[6] Rondo: Allegretto moderato - Prestissimo 10.39
Recorded: 1 & 22.XII.1956 and 19.V.1957, No. 3, Abbey Road Studios, London
Producer: William Mann and Alan Melville
Balance engineer: Neville Boyling
Recording first issued in 1958 by EMI Records Ltd. MONO/ADD
Digital remastering (P) 1991 by EMI Records Ltd.
Piano Sonata No. 26 in E flat major, Op. 81a "Les Adieux"
[7] I. Adagio - Allegro (Les Adieux) 6.59
[8] II. Andante espressivo (L’Absence) 3.50
[9] III. Vivacissimamente (Le Retour) 6.04
Recorded: 4.IV.1958, No. 3, Abbey Road Studios, London
Producer: Walter Jellinek
Balance engineer: Neville Boyling
Recording first issued in 1959 by EMI Records Ltd. MONO/ADD
Digital remastering (P) 1991 by EMI Records Ltd.
This compilation (P) 2011 by EMI Records Ltd. © EMI Records Ltd. 2011

CD 4 [72:45]
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN
Piano Sonata No. 23 in F minor, Op. 57 "Appassionata"
[1] I. Allegro assai 10.26
[2] II. Andante con moto 7.05
[3] III. Allegro ma non troppo - Presto 8.12
Recorded: 11 & 12.IV.1960, No. 3, Abbey Road Studios, London
Producer: Walter Legge & Walter Jellinek
Balance engineer: Harold Davidson
(P) 1961 EMI Records Ltd. STEREO/ADD
Digital remastering (P) 1991 by EMI Records Ltd.
Piano Sonata No. 22 in F major, Op. 54
[4] I. In tempo d’un Menuetto 5.59
[5] II. Allegretto 6.15
Recorded: 13 & 14.IV.1960, No. 3, Abbey Road Studios, London
Producer: Walter Jellinek
Balance engineer: Harold Davidson
(P) 1961 EMI Records Ltd. STEREO/ADD
Digital remastering (P) 1991 by EMI Records Ltd.
Piano Sonata No. 7 in D, Op. 10 No. 3
[6] I. Presto c6.37
[7] II. Largo e mesto c10.12
[8] III. Menuetto: Allegro c2.50
[9] IV. Rondo: Allegro c3.55
Recorded: 6.X.1958 & 15.X.1959, No. 3, Abbey Road Studios, London
Producer: Walter Legge
Balance engineer: Douglas Larter and Neville Boyling
Recording first issued in 1960 by EMI Records Ltd. STEREO/ADD
Digital remastering (P) 2011 by EMI Records Ltd.
Piano Sonata No. 24 in F sharp, Op. 78
[10] I. Adagio cantabile - Allegro ma non troppo c7.20
[11] II. Allegro vivace c3.00
Recorded: 8.IV.1958, No. 3, Abbey Road Studios, London
Producer: Walter Legge
Balance engineer: Neville Boyling
Recording first issued in 1959 by EMI Records Ltd. MONO/ADD
Digital remastering (P) 2011 by EMI Records Ltd.
This compilation (P) 2011 by EMI Records Ltd. © EMI Records Ltd. 2011

CD 5 [69:59]
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN
Piano Sonata No. 28 in A major, Op. 101
[1] I. Allegretto ma non troppo 4.20
[2] II. Vivace alla Marcia 5.06
[3] III. Adagio ma non troppo, con affetto - 2.40
[4] Allegro 8.07
Recorded: 30.XI & 1.XII.1956, No. 3, Abbey Road Studios, London
Producer: Walter Legge
Balance engineer: Neville Boyling
Recording first issued in 1958 by EMI Records Ltd. MONO/ADD
Piano Sonata No. 31 in A flat major, Op. 110
[5] I. Moderato cantabile molto espressivo 7.15
[6] II. Allegro molto 2.16
[7] III. Adagio ma non troppo - 3.53
[8] Fuga: Allegro ma non troppo 7.14
Recorded: 18.V.1957, No. 3, Abbey Road Studios, London
Producer: Walter Legge & Alan Melville
Balance engineer: Neville Boyling
Recording first issued in 1958 by EMI Records Ltd. MONO/ADD
Piano Sonata No. 32 in C minor, Op. 111
[9] I. Maestoso - Allegro con brio ed appassionato 9.01
[10] II. Arietta: Adagio molto semplice e cantabile 19.53
Recorded: 21 - 23.V.1957, No. 3, Abbey Road Studios, London
Producer: Walter Legge & William Mann
Balance engineer: Neville Boyling & Edward Huntley
Recording first issued in 1958 by EMI Records Ltd. MONO/ADD
This compilation and digital remastering (P) 1991 by EMI Records Ltd.

CD 6 [51:36]
Johannes BRAHMS 1833-1897
Brahms: Piano Concerto No. 1 in D minor, Op.15
[1] I. Maestoso GB-AYC-88-03494 23.28
[2] II. Adagio GB-AYC-88-03495 15.06
[3] III. Rondo: Allegro non troppo GB-AYC-88-03496 12.54
Philharmonia Orchestra/Carlo Maria Giulini
Recorded: 21 - 23.IV.1960, No. 1, Abbey Road Studios, London
Producer: Walter Legge
Balance engineer: Harold Davidson
(P) 1961 EMI Records Ltd. STEREO/ADD
Digital remastering (P) 1988 by EMI Records Ltd.

CD 7 [69:17]
Carl Maria von WEBER 1786-1826
Konzertstück in F minor, Op. 79
[1] Larghetto affettuoso - 6.18
[2] Allegro passionato - Adagio - 5.06
[3] Tempo di marcia - Piů mosso - 2.25
[4] Presto giojoso 4.31
Philharmonia Orchestra/Alceo Galliera
Recorded: 19.IV.1960, No. 1, Abbey Road Studios, London
Producer: Walter Legge
Balance engineer: Harold Davidson
(P) 1961 EMI Records Ltd. STEREO/ADD
Digital remastering (P) 2004 by EMI Records Ltd.
Johannes BRAHMS
Piano Concerto No. 2 in B flat major, Op.83
[5] I. Allegro non troppo GB-AYC-88-03324 19.11
[6] II. Allegretto appassionato GB-AYC-88-03325 9.17
[7] III. Andante* GB-AYC-88-03326 12.05
[8] IV. Allegretto grazioso GB-AYC-88-03327 9.57
* Raymond Clark, cello
Philharmonia Orchestra/Carlo Maria Giulini
Recorded: 21 & 22.IV.1962, No. 1, Abbey Road Studios, London
Producer: Walter Legge
Balance engineer: Francis Dillnutt
(P) 1962 EMI Records Ltd. STEREO/ADD
Digital remastering (P) 1988 by EMI Records Ltd.
This compilation (P) 2011 by EMI Records Ltd. © EMI Records Ltd. 2011

CD 8 [68:43]
Pyotr Il’yich TCHAIKOVSKY 1840-1893
Piano Concerto No. 1 in B flat minor, Op.23
[1] I. Allegro non troppo e molto maestoso - Allegro con spirito 21.20
[2] II. Andantino semplice - Prestissimo - Tempo I 7.46
[3] III. Allegro con fuoco 7.06
Philharmonia Orchestra/Alceo Galliera
Recorded: 18 & 19.IV.1960, No. 1, Abbey Road Studios, London
Producer: Walter Legge
Balance engineer: Harold Davidson
(P) 1961 EMI Records Ltd. STEREO/ADD
Digital remastering (P) 1991 by EMI Records Ltd.
Edvard GRIEG 1843-1907
Piano Concerto in A minor, Op.16
[1] I. Allegro molto moderato - Cadenza - Tempo I 14.32
[2] II. Adagio 6.55
[3] III. Allegro moderato molto e marcato - Andante maestoso 10.46
Philharmonia Orchestra/Alceo Galliera
Recorded: 19 & 20.IV.1957, No. 1, Abbey Road Studios, London
Producer: Walter Legge
Balance engineer: Neville Boyling
Recording first issued in 1958 by EMI Records Ltd. MONO/ADD
Digital remastering (P) 2001 by Testament
This compilation (P) 2011 by EMI Records Ltd. © EMI Records Ltd. 2011

CD 9 [70:02]
Franz SCHUBERT 1797-1828
3 Klavierstücke, D.946
[1] Impromptu No. 1 in E flat minor 15.21
[2] Impromptu No. 2 in E flat 15.37
[3] Impromptu No. 3 in C 5.13
Recorded: 2 & 3.IX.1956, No. 3, Abbey Road Studios, London
Producer: William Mann
Balance engineer: Neville Boyling
Recording first issued in 1959 by EMI Records Ltd. MONO/ADD
Digital remastering (P) 1988 by EMI Records Ltd.
Fantasy in C "Wanderer", D.760
[4] Allegro con fuoco ma non troppo 6.32
[5] Adagio 7.49
[6] Presto 5.15
[7] Allegro 3.22
Recorded: 22 & 25.X.1957, No. 3, Abbey Road Studios, London
Producer: William Mann
Balance engineer: Harold Davidson & Neville Boyling
Recording first issued in 1959 by EMI Records Ltd. MONO/ADD
Digital remastering (P) 1988 by EMI Records Ltd.
Allegretto in C minor, D.915 c6.05
March in E, D.606 c4.12
Recorded: 15.X.1959, No. 3, Abbey Road Studios, London
Producer: Walter Legge
Balance engineer: Neville Boyling
Recordings first issued in 1959 by EMI Records Ltd. STEREO/ADD
Digital remastering (P) 2011 by EMI Records Ltd.
This compilation (P) 2011 by EMI Records Ltd. © EMI Records Ltd. 2011

CD 10 [79:22]
Franz SCHUBERT
6 Moments musicaux, D.780
[1] No. 1 in C 5.35
[2] No. 2 in A flat 7.11
[3] No. 3 in F minor 1.59
[4] No. 4 in C sharp minor c5.48
[5] No. 5 in F minor c2.08
[6] No. 6 in A flat major c9.00
Recorded: 3 & 4.IX.1956, No. 3, Abbey Road Studios, London
Producer: William Mann
Balance engineer: Neville Boyling
Recording first issued in 1959 by EMI Records Ltd. STEREO/ADD
Digital remastering (P) 2011 by EMI Records Ltd.
Frédéric Chopin 1810-1849
Piano Sonata No. 3 in B minor, Op.38
[7] I. Allegro maestoso 14.44
[8] II. Scherzo: Molto vivace 2.41
[9] III. Largo - 10.35
[10] IV. Finale: Presto non tanto 5.19
Recorded: 14, 24 & 25.IV. and 21.VI.1960, No. 3, Abbey Road Studios, London
[11] Fantasy in F minor, Op. 49 13.11
Recorded: 21.VI.1960, No. 3, Abbey Road Studios, London
Producer: Walter Jellinek
Balance engineer: Harold Davidson
(P) 1962 EMI Records Ltd. STEREO/ADD
Digital remastering (P) 2001 by EMI Records Ltd.
This compilation (P) 2011 by EMI Records Ltd. © EMI Records Ltd. 2011

CD 11 [79:45]
Frédéric CHOPIN 1810-1849
12 Études, Op.10
[1] No. 1 in C 1.55
[2] No. 2 in A minor 1.22
[3] No. 3 in E 4.31
[4] No. 4 in C sharp minor 2.16
[5] No. 5 in G flat 1.41
[6] No. 6 in E flat minor 2.53
[7] No. 7 in C 1.37
[8] No. 8 in F 2.23
[9] No. 9 in F minor 2.09
[10] No. 10 in A flat 2.14
[11] No. 11 in E flat 3.00
[12] No. 12 in C minor 2.27
12 Études, Op.25
[13] No. 1 in A flat 2.25
[14] No. 2 in F minor 1.43
[15] No. 3 in F 2.04
[16] No. 4 in A minor 2.18
[17] No. 5 in E minor 3.24
[18] No. 6 in G sharp minor 2.06
[19] No. 7 in C sharp minor 5.18
[20] No. 8 in D flat 1.09
[21] No. 9 in G flat 1.04
[22] No. 10 in B minor 4.29
[23] No. 11 in A minor 3.36
[24] No. 12 in C minor 2.29
3 Nouvelles Études
[25] No. 1 in F minor 2.05
[26] No. 2 in D flat 2.24
[27] No. 3 in A flat 2.04
[28] Allegro de concert in A, Op.46 12.22
Recorded: 15 - 22 & 29.VI. and 5.IX.1956, No. 3, Abbey Road Studios, London
Producer: Alan Melville and William Mann
Balance engineer: Neville Boyling
Recording first issued in 1957 by EMI Records Ltd. MONO/ADD
This compilation & digital remastering (P) 2007 by EMI Records Ltd.

CD 12 [70:01]
Robert SCHUMANN 1810-1856
Piano Concerto in A minor, Op.54
[1] I. Allegro affetuoso - Andante espressivo - Tempo I - Cadenza - Allegro molto 16.45
[2] II. Intermezzo (Andantino grazioso) 5.54
[3] III. Allegro vivace 11.14
Philharmonia Orchestra/Alceo Galliera
Recorded: 24.V.1957, Walthamstow Town Hall, London
Producer: Lawrance Collingwood
Balance engineer: Robert E. Beckett
Recording first issued in 1958 by EMI Records Ltd. MONO/ADD
Digital remastering (P) 2001 by Testament
Carnaval, Op. 9
[4] 1. Préambule 2.04
[5] 2. Pierrot 0.59
[6] 3. Arlequin 0.35
[7] 4. Valse noble 1.06
[8] 5. Eusebius 2.04
[9] 6. Florestan 0.51
[10] 7. Coquette. 0.57
[11] 8. Réplique 0.52
[12] 9. Papillons 0.40
[13] 10. A.S.C.H. - S.C.H.A. (Lettres dansantes) 0.46
[14] 11. Chiarina 0.45
[15] 12. Chopin 1.25
[16] 13. Estrella 0.32
[17] 14. Reconnaissance 1.49
[18] 15. Pantalon et Colombine 0.52
[19] 16. Valse allemande 0.31
[20] 17. Paganini (Intermezzo) 1.03
[21] 18. Aveu 1.00
[22] 19. Promenade 2.11
[23] 20. Pause 0.18
[24] 21. Marche des »Davidsbündler« contre les Philistins 3.32
Recorded: 3 & 4.IV.1939, No. 3, Abbey Road Studios, London
Producer: Unknown



 

 

 

 

 


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