1. Rondo in G major, Op. 51, No. 2
2-5. Piano sonata No. 28 in A major, Op. 101 1817
Johannes Brahms (1833-97)
6-32. Variations & Fugue on a Theme by Handel, Op. 24
CD 2 (Recorded live 1973)
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)
1-4. Piano sonata No. 7 in D major, Op. 10, No. 3 1798
5-7. Piano sonata No. 23 in F minor, Op. 57 Appassionata
Artistic quality 10 | Sound quality 7
Although no audience appears evident in these 1963 and 1973 broadcast recordings from the Schwetzingen Festival, Claudio Arrau sounds anything but studio-bound as he throws caution to the wind and plays like a titan. What tonal magic and soulful drama he evokes in the G major Rondo's gorgeously effected transitions and long trills! Op. 101's first and third movements take on broader, freer dimensions than in Arrau's three commercial versions, while by contrast the Scherzo's obsessive march rhythms vehemently press forward, yet without losing clarity. Similarly, he subjects the Brahms Handel Variations to more epic dimensions and dramatic extremes than the norm, as the theme statement alone bears out.
The variations proper abound with revelations. For example, listen to how the lavish pedaling in Nos. 1 and 2 does not preclude ripe polyphonic interaction, and notice the intensity of No. 3's off-beat accents, No. 4's incomparably fluid octaves, the exciting acceleration from No. 7 into No. 8, or the final three variations' whirling, organ-like build up.
Beethoven's Op. 10 No. 3 and Appassionata were long-time Arrau concert staples, especially in his later years. In the main, these 1973 interpretations benefit from more animated, flexible phrasing and dynamism in comparison to the pianist's analog and digital Philips studio counterparts. Powerful stuff! [8/12/2009] --Jed Distler