Claudio Arrau

Claudio Arrau in 1974, by Allan Warren

Claudio Arrau León (February 6, 1903  June 9, 1991) was a Chilean pianist known for his interpretations of a vast repertoire spanning 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.


Arrau was born in Chillán, Chile, the son of Carlos Arrau, an ophthalmologist who died when Claudio was only a year old, and Lucrecia León Bravo de Villalba, a piano teacher. He belonged to an old, prominent family of Southern Chile. His ancestor Lorenzo de Arrau, a Spanish engineer, was sent to Chile by King Carlos III of Spain. Through his great-grandmother, María del Carmen Daroch del Solar, Arrau was a descendant of the Campbells of Glenorchy, a Scottish noble family.[1] Arrau was raised as a Catholic, but gave it up in his late teens.[2]

Claudio Arrau, 1929

Arrau was a child prodigy and he could read music before he could read words, but unlike many virtuosos, there had never been a professional musician in his family. His mother was an amateur pianist and introduced him to the instrument. At the age of 4 he was reading Beethoven sonatas, and he gave his first concert a year later.[3] When Arrau was 6 he auditioned in front of several congressmen and President Pedro Montt, who was so impressed that he began arrangements for Arrau's future education. At age 8 Arrau was sent on a ten-year-long grant from the Chilean government to study in Germany, travelling with his mother and sister Lucrecia. He was admitted to the Stern Conservatory of Berlin where he eventually became a pupil of Martin Krause, who had studied under Franz Liszt. At the age of 11 Arrau could play Liszt's Transcendental Etudes, one of the most difficult works for piano, as well as Brahms's Paganini Variations. Arrau's first recordings were made on Aeolian Duo-Art player piano music rolls. Krause died in his fifth year of teaching Arrau, leaving the 15-year-old student devastated by the loss of his mentor; Arrau did not continue formal study after that point.[3]

In 1935, Arrau gave a celebrated rendition of the entire keyboard works of Johann Sebastian Bach over 12 recitals. In 1936, Arrau gave a complete Mozart keyboard works over 5 recitals, and followed with the complete Schubert and Weber cycles. In 1938, for the first time, Arrau gave the complete Beethoven piano sonatas and concertos in Mexico City. Arrau repeated this several times in his lifetime, including in New York and London. He became one of the leading authorities on Beethoven in the 20th century.[3][4]

In 1929, Arrau married lyric soprano Erika Burkewitch (1909-1997), a Latvian national. They had one child: Klaudio (1929-1949). In 1935 they separated. In 1949 their son Klaudio died in a Soviet prison camp in Bautzen, East Germany.

In 1937, Arrau married mezzo-soprano Ruth Schneider (1908–1989), a German national. They had three children: Carmen (1938–2006), Mario (1940–1988) and Christopher (1959). In 1941 the Arrau family left Germany and emigrated to the United States, eventually settling in New York City, where Arrau spent his remaining years. He became a dual U.S.-Chilean citizen in 1979.

Arrau died on June 9, 1991, at the age of 88, in Mürzzuschlag, Austria, from complications of emergency surgery performed on June 8 to correct an intestinal blockage.[5] His remains were interred in his native city of Chillán, Chile.

Tone and approach to music

Claudio Arrau

Daniel Barenboim said that Claudio Arrau had a particular sound with two aspects : first a thickness, full-bodied and orchestral, and second an utterly disembodied timbre, quite spellbinding.[6] Sir Colin Davis said : "His sound is amazing, and it is entirely his own... no one else has it exactly that way. His devotion to Liszt is extraordinary. He ennobles that music in a way no one else in the world can."[6] According to American critic Harold C. Schonberg, Arrau always put "a decidedly romantic piano tone in his interpretations".[7]

Arrau was an intellectual and a deeply reflective interpreter. He read widely while travelling, and despite the lack of any formal education outside of his musical training, he learned English, Italian, German, and French in addition to his native Spanish. He became familiar with Jung's psychology in his twenties.[8]

Arrau's attitude toward music was very serious. He preached fidelity to the score, but also the use of imagination.[9] 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 and Liszt's Paganini études.[10][11] However, even late in his career, he often tended to play with less restraint in live concerts than in studio recordings.

Arrau was a man of remarkable fortitude; even towards the end of his life he invariably programmed very large, demanding concerts, including works such as Beethoven's Emperor Concerto and Brahms' Piano Concerto No. 1.[4]


Numerous pianists studied with Arrau, including Karlrobert Kreiten, Garrick Ohlsson, Roberto Szidon, Stephen Drury and Roberto Eyzaguirre among others.

He was a great recital performer: from age 40 to 60 he averaged 120 concerts a season, with a very large repertoire. At one time or another, he performed the complete keyboard works of Bach, Mozart, Beethoven and Chopin; but also programmed such off-the-beaten-path composers as Alkan and Busoni and illuminated obscure corners of the Liszt repertoire. It has been estimated that Arrau's total repertoire would carry him through 76 recital evenings, not counting the 60-odd works with orchestra which he also knew.[3]

Arrau recorded a considerable part of the piano music of Schumann, Chopin and Liszt. He edited the complete Beethoven piano sonatas for the Peters Urtext edition and recorded all of them on the Philips label in 1962–1966. He recorded almost all of them once again after 1984 along with Mozart's complete piano sonatas. He is also famous for his recordings of Schubert, Brahms and Debussy.

Notable recordings:

At the time of his death at age 88 in the midst of a European concert tour, Arrau was working on a recording of the complete works of Bach for keyboard, and was also preparing some pieces of Haydn, Mendelssohn, Reger and Busoni, and Boulez's third piano sonata.

The Robert Schumann Society established the Arrau Medal in 1991. It has been awarded to András Schiff, Martha Argerich and Murray Perahia.



Awards and recognitions

  • 2012:

Voted into the Gramophone Hall of Fame[14]

  • 1990:

Gold Medal of The Royal Philharmonic Society

  • 1988:

La Medalla Teresa Carreño of Venezuela

Honorary Member of The Royal Philharmonic Society

  • 1984:

The Highest Distinction Award from the Inter-American Music Council and the Organization of American States

Doctor Honoris Causa of Universidad de Concepción

Professor Honoris Causa of Universidad de Bío-Bío

  • 1983:

The International UNESCO Music Prize

National de la Légion d'honneur of France

National Prize of Art of Chile

First Honorary Member of The Robert Schumann Society

Doctor Honoris Causa of University of Oxford

Commandatore da Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia

Knighthood from the Order of Malta

Beethoven Medal of New York

Philadelphia Bowl of Philadelphia

  • 1982:

La Orden del Águila Azteca of Mexico

  • 1980:

Hans von Bülow Medal of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra

  • 1970:

Großes Bundesverdienstkreuz of the Federal Republic of Germany

  • 1968:

Homage from the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. Kurt Westphal, on behalf of the orchestra, called him "heir to the throne of Gieseking and Busoni".

  • 1965:

Chevalier of Ordre des Arts et des Lettres of France

Presented with 'The Mask of Chopin' & Chopin's manuscripts

  • 1959:

Santiago's Honorary Citizen

Concepción's Honorary Citizen and City Gold Medal

Hijo Benemérito de Chillán

Chillán's hitherto Lumaco Street was named after Claudio Arrau

  • 1958:

The Medal of The Royal Philharmonic Society

  • 1949:

Hijo Predilecto de México

Doctor Honoris Causa of University of Chile

  • 1941:

Hijo Ilustre de Chillán

  • 1927:

Winner of the Grand Prix of the Concours International des Pianistes Geneva. The jury was composed by Arthur Rubinstein, Joseph Pembauer, Ernest Schelling, Alfred Cortot and José Vianna da Motta.[15] Cortot exclaimed: "Cela c'est un pianiste. C'est merveilleux"

  • 1925:

Honour Prize of the Stern Conservatory, becoming Professor

  • 1919 & 1920:

Liszt Prize (after 45 years without a first place winner)

  • 1918:

Schulhoff Prize

End of studies at the Stern Conservatory, receiving an "Exceptional Diploma"

  • 1917:

Sachsen-Gothaische Medaille

  • 1916:

Grant of the Stern Conservatory

  • 1915:

First Prize in the Rudolph Ibach Competition (he was the only participating boy)

  • 1915:

Gustav Holländer Medal for young artists

  • 1911:
Grant of the Chilean Congress for musical studies in Berlin

Album prizes

Brahms 2 Piano Concertos with Carlo Maria Giulini and Philharmonia Orchestra [EMI Recorded in 1960 & 1962]

Beethoven 5 Piano Concertos with Bernard Haitink and Concertgebouw Orchestra [Philips Recorded in 1964]

Schumann Sonate Op.11, Fantasiestücke Op.111 [Philips Recorded in 1967 & 1968]

Brahms 2 Piano Concertos with Bernard Haitink and Concertgebouw Orchestra [Philips Recorded in 1969]

Liszt Complete Concert Paraphrases on Operas by Verdi [Philips Recorded in 1971]

Liszt 12 Etudes d'exécution Transcendente [Philips Recorded in 1974 & 1976]

Liszt 2 Piano Concertos with Sir Colin Davis and London Symphony Orchestra [Philips Recorded in 1979]

Chopin Complete Nocturnes [Philips Recorded in 1977 & 1978]

Chopin Complete Etudes [EMI Recorded in 1956, Remastered in 1987]

Chopin Complete Etudes [EMI Recorded in 1956, Remastered in 1987]

Schumann Piano Concerto, Carnaval & Beethoven Sonata Op.111 [EMI Filmed in 1963, 1961 & 1970]

Liszt Solo Piano Works: Ballade No.2, Jeux d'eaux à la villa d'Este, Vallée d'Obermann…… [Philips Recorded in 1969]

Schumann Comprehensive Solo Piano Works [Philips Recorded from 1966 to 1976]

Beethoven 5 Piano Concertos with Sir Colin Davis and Staatskapelle Dresden [Philips Recorded in 1984 & 1987]

Chopin Complete Etudes [EMI Recorded in 1956, Remastered in 1987]

Chopin Complete Etudes [EMI Recorded in 1956, Remastered in 1987]


  1. Claudio Arrau (Piano) full ancestry to Campbells as well as Hapsburgs given here. Accessed via Internet Novemeber 22, 2016
  2. Joseph Horowitz, Arrau on Music and Performance Page 182 "Arrau was raised as a Catholic, but gave it up around the age of fifteen. 'I confessed only once, and thought it was absolutely ridiculous...(I) am not religious in any confessional sense. I think I have some mystical sensations. But I have no image of God as a person.'"
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 Thomas F. Johnson (1963). "ARRAU AT 60". Musical America.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 "Claudio Arrau, Pianist, Is Dead at 88". The New York Times. June 10, 1991.
  5. Joseph Horowitz, "Afterword"
  6. 1 2 Roma Randles (2013). A Life in Music: Ruth Nye and the Arrau Heritage. Grosvenor House Publishing. p. 1937. ISBN 9781781482001. Retrieved January 21, 2015.
  7. Harold C. Schonberg, The Great Pianists from Mozart to the Present, Simon & Schuster, Second Edition (1987)
  8. Horowitz, J. (1999), Arrau on music and performance. Courier Dover Publications.
  9. Claudio Arrau Introduces the Beethoven Piano Concertos. 2 July 2012. Retrieved 21 December 2015 via YouTube.
  10. CLAUDIO ARRAU – Balakirev ISLAMEY (1928). 25 August 2008. Retrieved 21 December 2015 via YouTube.
  11. Arrau plays Liszt Paganini Etude no. 6 (rec. 1928). 11 July 2011. Retrieved 21 December 2015 via YouTube.
  12. "Claudio Arrau. The gift of constant self-renewal".
  13. John von Rhein (June 10, 1991). "World-renowned Pianist Claudio Arrau". Chicago Tribune.
  14. "Claudio Arrau (pianist)". Gramophone. Retrieved 11 April 2012.
  15. Sachs, H., & Manildi, D.: Rubinstein: a life, page 379. Grove Press, 1995.
This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 11/29/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.