Born February 6, 1903, in Chillan, Chile; naturalized U.S. citizen, 1979; son of Carlos (an oculist) and Lucrecia (a piano teacher; maiden name, Leon) Arrau; married Ruth Schneider, July 8, 1937; children: Carmen, Mario, Christopher. Addresses: Home --Douglaston, N.Y. Manager --ICM Artists Ltd., 40 W. 57th St., New York N.Y. 10019.
Claudio Arrau is among the most durable and versatile pianists of the twentieth century. His career extends more than eighty years, and in that time he has distinguished himself in a phenomenal range of music--from Baroque master J. S. Bach to Romantics such as Robert Schumann and Franz Liszt, and from the towering genius Ludwig van Beethoven to key Impressionist Claude Debussy. Throughout much of his career Arrau has also performed at a pace that might prove exhausting to less disciplined musicians: in his most hectic period, stretching from the 1920s into the 1960s, he annually gave more than one hundred performances and still managed to produce a vast catalog of recorded works. Even into the 1970s and '80s his schedule has remained relatively formidable. Arrau, however, seems undaunted by the demands of his career, and he dismisses the belief that a performer's abilities must inevitably decline. "I think an artist in his development doesn't necessarily have an up and down," he told Joseph Horowitz in the New York Times. "In most cases an artist's development only goes up. "
Arrau was born in Chile in 1903. A prodigy, Arrau prospered under the tutelage of his mother, a piano instructor. At age five he held his first public performance, playing works by Mozart and Schumann. Within two years he was known among Chilean music afficianados as a remarkable talent, and in 1910 he was given a ten-year scholarship for studying in Germany's music center, Berlin. Arrau's greatest teacher there was Martin Krause, a former pupil of Liszt's. Krause devoted himself extensively to educating young Arrau in nearly all matters, from music--Beethoven's compositions were especially emphasized--to nutrition, aesthetics, and even etiquette.
In the mid-1910s Arrau performed his first Berlin recital and earned several awards. Soon afterwards he began performing outside Germany and with such conductors as Wilhelm Furtwangler, who became one of Arrau's favorite musical collaborators. Arrau's career seemed to be developing impressively, but he faltered when Krause died in 1918. Without his mentor, Arrau suffered a devastating loss of self-confidence, and after a mismanaged tour of the United States he found himself in despair back in Berlin.
Through therapy with psychoanalyst Hubert Abrahamsohn, who had studied under Carl Jung, Arrau gradually recovered from his depression and found greater awareness of himself as an interpretive artist. By the late 1920s Arrau was once again realizing success, winning a prestigious piano competition in Switzerland and commencing another concert tour. Europe, however, was teeming with musicians, and in order to sustain public interest and draw further attention, Arrau undertook a publicity stunt in 1935 by playing J. S. Bach's complete keyboard compositions in a series of twelve recitals. When this series earned Arrau considerable praise, he followed in 1936 with a series devoted to Mozart's entire keyboard works, and two years later he gave the first of his many series presenting Beethoven's thirty-two sonatas.
The success of these artistically demanding--and physically exhausting--feats established Arrau in Europe as an artist of phenomenal range and stamina. In America, though, he was unknown, and when he fled there after World War II erupted he found himself once again forced to develop an audience. American critics, however, quickly rallied behind Arrau, who powerfully impressed them with his versatility and unusual stamina. At the end of World War II, by which time Arrau had given more than two hundred concerts and recitals, he was widely acclaimed as an artist of distinguished interpretive powers as well. More than one critic remarked that Arrau produced probing, dramatic interpretations whether playing Bach or Mozart or Schumann.
During the 1950s Arrau broadened his appeal by performing extensively in Mexico and South America. Returning to his native Chile proved particularly triumphant, with audiences providing wildly enthusiastic ovations and the Chilean government granting him a gold medal for his achievements. By the 1960s Arrau was known throughout the Western world for his musical prowess, and though he sustained that awareness through near-continual touring, he also found time to record, with particular emphasis on Beethoven's sonatas and concertos. Towards the end of the decade, after complete sets of the Beethoven compositions, he undertook similarly extensive recordings of works by Romantic masters Schumann, Chopin, and Liszt. These records earned Arrau still further accolades as an artist of astounding interpretive powers and range.
Acclaim continued to be accorded Arrau as he began realizing pivotal birthdays and anniversaries. In 1978, he celebrated his seventy-fifth year by giving nearly one hundred performances in a total of fourteen countries. Among this tour's highlights was a New York City recital featuring Beethoven's "Les Adieux" Sonata, Liszt's B Minor Sonata, and Brahms's F Minor Sonata. Newsweek reported that Arrau "attacked the pieces in typical Arrau fashion: with fierce aplomb and with scrupulous respect for the notes as written." Another career highlight occurred in 1984 when he returned again to his native Chile and performed a nationally broadcast recital.
Despite his age, Arrau has maintained a demanding work pace into the 1980s. He still performs at least fifty concerts and recitals each year and continues devoting himself to recording and re-recording the vast piano literature. Among his recording projects in the 1980s are new interpretations of the Beethoven concertos and selected Beethoven sonatas--his Beethoven recordings alone number more than eighty--as well as Mozart sonatas and some Schubert compositions. In 1978, by which time Arrau had already been performing for seventy years, he explained his work pace to Newsweek: "I'm afraid if I stop I won't have the courage to start again."
Claudio Arrau's Career
Concert pianist, 1908--. Performed extensively throughout Europe during 1920s and 1930s, came to United States during World War II, toured U.S. during 1940s, toured Mexico and South America during 1950s, still performs over fifty concert dates per year. Established Claudio Arrau Fund for Young Musicians, 1967.
Claudio Arrau's Awards
Winner of numerous awards and prizes, c. 1910--, including Gustav Hollander Award, c. 1910s; Liszt Prize (two-timer winner) c. 1910s; Gran Prix International des Pianists, Geneva, Switzerland, 1927; gold medal from Chilean government, c. 1950s; Chilean National Arts Prize; Mexico's Order of the Aztec Eagle; Commander of the French Legion of Honor; and the UNESCO Music Prize, 1983.
- Selective Works
- Beethoven, Ludwig van, Piano Concerto No. 4 in G, Opus 58 Phillips.
- Beethoven, Piano Concerto No. 5 in E Flat, Opus 73 Phillips.
- Beethoven, Piano Sonata No. 21 in C, Opus 53 ("Waldstein") Phillips.
- Brahms, Johannes, Piano Concerto No. 1 in D, Opus 15 Angel.
- Brahms, Johannes, Piano Sonata No. 3 in F, Op. 5 Phillips.
- Chopin, Frederic, 24 Preludes, Opus 28 Odyssey.
- Chopin, Andante Spianato and Grand Polonaise, Opus 22 [and]
- Kradowiak, Opus 14 Phillips.
- Chopin, Piano Concerto No. 1 in E, Opus 11 Phillips.
- Debussy, Claude, Preludes, Book One Phillips.
- Liszt, Franz, Twelve Transcendental Etudes for Piano Phillips.
- Liszt, Piano Sonata in B Phillips.
- Liszt, Piano Concerto No. 1 in E Flat Columbia.
- Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus, Piano Sonata No. 12 in F, K. 332 Phillips.
- Schubert, Franz, Piano Sonata in A, Opus Posthumous, D. 959 Phillips.
- Shumann, Robert, Kreisleriana, Opus 16 Columbia.
- Schumann, Kinderszenen, Opus 15 Phillips.
- Dubal, David, Reflections From the Keyboard: The World of the Concert Pianist, Summit Books, 1984.
- Horowitz, Joseph, Conversations With Arrau, Knopf, 1982.
- Christian Science Monitor, July 28, 1983.
- Life, August 25, 1972.
- Newsweek, February 20, 1978.
- New York Times, February 5, 1978.