|Written by Willem Boone|
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Claudio Arrau was born in 1903 in Chilian, Chile. He was a child prodigy and gave his first concert at the age of 5. He was offered a scholarship and moved to Berlin, where he studied with the last pupil of Liszt, Martin Krause. Arrau is a descendant of Beethoven, as Krause studied with Liszt, who was a pupil of Czerny, who studied with Beethoven.
Krause remained Arrau’s only teacher, apart from technique which seemed innate, he learnt from Krause that a pianist should be ready to play “any moment’and that he should always give the impression that he could play 10 times faster or louder.
After Krause’s death, Arrau started touring. His first US-tour was unsuccesful. He soon experienced the problem of “transition”from a prodigy to a mature pianist and suffered from a severe depression. He managed to solve his problem with the help of psychoanalysis. Later in his life, Arrau emphasized the importance of psychoanalysis.
In the 30’s, he began to build a steady career. He also built up a very broad repertoire, which culminated in a series of 12 recitals, during which Arrau performed the complete works for keyboard by Bach, followed by cycles of Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert.
In 1941, he moved to the USA and maintained a very busy concert schedule of approximately 150 concerts a year. From 1960, he recorded exclusively for Philips Classics until his death in 1991. He mainly concentrated on Beethoven, Brahms, Chopin, Schumann, Schubert, Liszt and Debussy. At the very end of his career, he returned to Bach, but unfortunately, he could only record 4 of the 6 Partitas.
His career is fascinating in the sense that he evolved from a barnstorming virtuoso (e.g. his early recordings of Islamey, Schumann’s Carnaval or Weber’s 1st Sonata) to a deeply thoughtful, serious musician, who was increasingly famous for his depth of tone and scrupulous fidelity to the composer’s intentions.
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