CHOPIN: Concertos Nos. 1 & 2 – Claudio Arrau (Music&Arts)

by | Jun 2, 2005 | Classical Reissue Reviews | 0 comments

CHOPIN: Piano Concerto No. 1 in E Minor , Op .11; Piano Concerto No. 2 in F Minor, Op. 21

Claudio Arrau, piano/Otto Klemperer conducts WDR Symphony Orchestra, Cologne/Fritz Busch conducts New York Philharmonic (Op. 21)
Music & Arts CD-1158  71:38  (Distrib. Albany)****:

The repackaging of these two live performances by Claudio Arrau
(1903-1991) by Music and Arts reminds us of how much fluency and power
Arrau brought to Chopin, whom he claims he had to teach to conductor
Otto Klemperer!  Their 25 October 1954 performance of the E Minor
Concerto was available (CD-625) originally coupled with Guido Cantelli
and Arrau playing the Liszt A Major Concerto from New York 15 March
1953. One of Klemperer’s assets is his long classical line, which adds
a breadth and grandeur to the Chopin orchestral introduction and
interludes, often totally absorbed and neutralized by the keyboard
part. Arrau plays with the same rounded and full attention to chord
sonority and bell-like tones that characterized his playing for over
half a century. The thunderous, rolling nature of his arpeggios and
articulated grace-notes still have the power to mesmerize.

In the F Minor Concerto, given as part of the Human Rights Day Concert
for the United Nations, Arrau is quite capable of sudden thrusts of
forward motion, to which Fritz Busch keeps his orchestra affixed like a
velvet glove. Spacious chord progressions, lingering phrases, and tiny
adjustments to the phrase lengths mark Arrau’s especial, searching
rubato for Chopin, even as his left hand resonates with melodic or
rhythmic kernels often sacrificed to speed or glibness by other
pianists. Unfortunately for audiophiles, the F Minor Concerto suffers
enough acoustic and pitch degeneration to call attention to itself, so
the connoisseur enjoys both concertos while the audio buff has only the
E Minor Concerto to savor for its sonic patina. Always the intellectual
as well as digital wizard, Arrau continues to fascinate.

–Gary Lemco

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