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Claudio Arrau in Germany - Pre-War recordings from the collection of Deutsches Rundfunkarchiv
Claudio Arrau (piano)
Radio Orchestra/Hans Rosbaud
rec. 1929-39, Berlin and Frankfurt
MUSIC & ARTS CD-1060 [67:34 + 56:07]

Sitting snugly in Music and Arts’ back catalogue is this valuable twofer that has yet to be reviewed on this site, a state of affairs that can now be rectified. It contains a sequence of German Radio recordings made in 1937-38, supplemented by two examples from his pre-war studio legacy and a 1935 broadcast of the Liszt First Concerto with Hans Rosbaud directing an unnamed orchestra in Frankfurt. This last named had only previously been available on an obscure Russian LP.

His Chopin Ballade in G minor is well-paced and powerfully poetic though there’s more dynamism to be heard than in those later LP versions, something that applies to the entirety of the repertoire preserved in these broadcasts. Inevitably the two Beethoven sonatas reveal a more challenging mechanism at work and a greater sense of motion, but they also enshrine precisely those qualities of gravity and tonal depth that were to deepen over the decades. The Op.2 sonata is heard in noisier sound than Op.10 No.3 but the sound spectrum is fine, notwithstanding any minor limitations. His Mozart Sonata in D, K576 is dispatched with delectable lyricism and crisply delineated passagework.

He plays Haydn’s Andante con Variazioni with clarity, excellent voicings and wit but the main focus of the second disc is Liszt. Because Arrau’s teacher, Martin Krause, was a Liszt pupil there’s much to absorb from Arrau’s performance and he is on record as having asserted that ‘there is a Liszt way of playing’ and he was keen to elucidate the many things Krause passed down to him. The virtuosity but commanding lyricism of the Petrarch Sonnet 104 would certainly owe something to Krause’s insistence on chord breaking, as well as freedom of expression and the employment of the whole arm from the shoulder. The Concerto is blighted by some decidedly low-fi sound. The piano sound spectrum is splintery, which is a shame, but enough remains audible to hear that this was a powerfully conceived and sustained performance. And Rosbaud is always worth hearing. Harmonies du soir has a bit of chuffing but is again powerfully projected. The Chopin Scherzo No.3 and Liszt’s Les jeux d'eaux à la Villa d'Este are both in Marston’s release of all Arrau’s pre-war commercial legacy. The Liszt is also included in the Arrau Warner Rarities 1929-51 set.

Jed Distler’s succinct notes set the seal on this commanding retrieval, almost all of which made its first appearance in this set.

Jonathan Woolf

Disc contents
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-49) 
Ballade No. 1 in G minor, Op. 23 (1835) [8:24]
Scherzo No.3 in C Minor, Op.39 (1839) [7:19]
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827) 
Piano Sonata No. 7 in D major, Op. 10, No. 3 (1798) [21:01]
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827) 
Piano Sonata in C major, Op. 2 No. 3 (1794-95) [23:49]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791) 
Piano Sonata in D, K576 (1789) [14:05]
Josef HAYDN (1732-1809)
Andante con variazioni in F minor, Hob. XVII:6 (1793) [8:53]
Franz LISZT (1811-1886) 
Sonetto 104 del Petrarca (Années II/5), S161/5 (1846) [6:25]
Les jeux d'eaux à la Villa d'Este (Années III/4), S163/4 [6:55]
Harmonies du soir, S139/11 (1851) [7:53]
Piano concerto No.1 in E flat major, S.124 (1849/1856) [18:17]



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