|No. 302 of the ongoing ITYWLTMT series of audio montages, which can be found in our archives at https://archive.org/details/pcast302|
My shares here on the Tuesday Blog and on my Friday series in January have been focused on music for piano (Ashkenazy playing Mozart concertos, Alicia de Larrocha playing music by Albeniz and Mozart and the next two shares (this week and next) exploring mainly romantic and neo-romantic piano works in solo and concertante settings.
This week’s featured artist, Claudio Arrau León was a Chilean pianist known for his interpretations of a vast repertoire spanning the baroque to 20th-century composers, especially Bach, Beethoven, Schubert, Chopin, Schumann, Liszt and Brahms. He is widely considered one of the greatest pianists of the twentieth century.
Arrau was an intellectual and a deeply reflective interpreter. He read widely while travelling, and he learned English, Italian, German, and French in addition to his native Spanish. Arrau's attitude toward music was very serious. He preached fidelity to the score, but also the use of imagination. Although he often played with slower and more deliberate tempi from his middle age onward, he had a reputation as a fabulous virtuoso earlier in his career, a reputation supported by recordings he made at this time, such as Balakirev's Islamey (opening today’s montage) and Liszt's Paganini études. However, even late in his career, he often tended to play with less restraint in live concerts than in studio recordings.
The montage proposes Arrau at different phases of his career – playing the difficult Islamey on a shellac recording from 1928, Debussy in the 1950’s, and Liszt in the 1970’s; Arrau was a pupil of Martin Krause, who was a student of Franz Liszt.
Chopin and Mozart complete the montage – Mozart’s forward-looking Fantady K. 475 and a pair of Chopin nocturnes. Further, Chopin and Mozart have an intriguing point of intersection in our montage – his variations on "Là ci darem la mano" for piano and orchestra, Op. 2, written in 1827, when he was aged 17. "Là ci darem la mano" is a duet sung by Don Giovanni and Zerlina in Act I of Mozart's opera Don Giovanni.
The Variations were Chopin's first work for piano with orchestra; Chopin often played the variations without accompaniment, and he later abandoned the orchestra almost entirely in his compositions. In his early career he wrote two concertos and three other concertante pieces, but always remained relatively indifferent to the orchestral elements of these works, often using the orchestra as a mere accompaniment to the much more brilliant piano part.
I think you will love this music too.