Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Franz Liszt - Piano Sonata; 2 Études de concert (Claudio Arrau)


Composer: Franz Liszt
  1. Piano Sonata in B minor, S. 178: Lento assai - Allegro energico -
  2. Piano Sonata in B minor, S. 178: Grandioso - Recitativo -
  3. Piano Sonata in B minor, S. 178: Andante sostenuto -
  4. Piano Sonata in B minor, S. 178: Allegro energico - Andante sostenuto - Lento assai
  5. Harmonies poétiques et religieuses, S. 173: 3. Bénédiction de Dieu dans la solitude: Moderato -
  6. Harmonies poétiques et religieuses, S. 173: 3. Bénédiction de Dieu dans la solitude: Andante -
  7. Harmonies poétiques et religieuses, S. 173: 3. Bénédiction de Dieu dans la solitude: Più sostenuto quasi preludio - Andante semplice
  8. 2 Konzertetüden, S. 145: 1. Waldesrauschen
  9. 2 Konzertetüden, S. 145: 2. Gnomenreigen
  10. Années de pèlerinage I - Suisse, S. 160: 6. Vallée d'Obermann

Claudio Arrau, piano
Date: 1969 (10), 1970
Label: Philips



Reference Recording: Arrau’s Liszt Sonata

Claudio Arrau's 1970 Philips recording of Liszt's B minor Sonata, not to be confused with his hard-to-find 1985 digital remake, remains unmatched in its fusion of technical finish, personal poetry, and spiritual depth. Under Arrau's immaculate, amazingly even and supple fingers, the piano's percussive components are transformed into fluid, organ-like sonorities that resonate from the bottom up. You may cavil with a rubato here or an italicized phrase there, yet there's nothing remotely self-regarding about this pianist's trembling theatricality. His bardic style both clarifies and reads between Liszt's lines without stepping upon or second-guessing them. Once you submit to Arrau's demanding journey, you'll be rewarded and nourished for years to come.

The Bénediction de Dieu either can be powerfully sublime or static and trite, depending on the pianist. Arrau's serious, full-bodied approach pays profound dividends as he sings out the left-hand melody in long arcs against the right hand's caressing double notes. Likewise, his slower-than-usual Gnomenreignen comes off more like a tone poem than an étude, and Waldesrauschen's murmuring filigree has gorgeous color and quiet strength (notice the longing with which Arrau inflects its rising chromatic melody).

To fill out the recital, Philips includes Vallée d'Obermann, arguably the high point of Arrau's great 1969 Philips Liszt recital (when will this be reissued singly?). It's instructive to hear how Arrau projects the music's brooding angst and harmonic tension through means of color, touch, and timing, in contrast to the pronounced tempo fluctuations and textural rewrites Vladimir Horowitz imposed on the score. While both approaches are convincing, Arrau's faith in Liszt's urtext results in a final peroration that organically flows from what came before, rather than sounding like a tacked-on octave étude. Philips' 24-bit transfers reveal more tape hiss than previous CD editions and show a brighter if slightly harsher top end. No Liszt lover should be without these transcendent performances. And even if you don't love Liszt, Arrau's singular artistry will win you over. [2/17/2002]

-- Jed Distler, ClassicsToday

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Franz Liszt (October 22, 1811 – July 31, 1886) was a prolific 19th-century Hungarian composer, virtuoso pianist, conductor, music teacher, arranger, organist, philanthropist, author, nationalist and a Franciscan tertiary. Liszt gained renown in Europe for his virtuosic skill as a pianist and in the 1840s he was considered to be the greatest pianist of all time. As a composer, Liszt was one of the most prominent composers of the "New German School". Some of his most notable musical contributions were the invention of the symphonic poem, developing the concept of thematic transformation as part of his experiments in musical form, and making radical departures in harmony.


Claudio Arrau (February 6, 1903 – June 9, 1991) was a Chilean pianist known for his interpretations of a vast repertoire spanning from the baroque to 20th-century composers, especially Beethoven, Schubert, Chopin, Schumann, Liszt and Brahms. He is widely considered one of the greatest pianists of the twentieth century. Although having a big technique and a rich, weighted sonority, Arrau mostly avoided virtuosic displays. He was an intellectual interpreter and his attitude toward music was very serious. He was also a man of remarkable fortitude, even towards the end of his life he still programmed very large, demanding concerts.


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