Feb 6, 1903 – June 9, 1991
Born – Chillán, Chile
Claudio ArrauOver the course of his 80 year career, Claudio Arrau, had become a piano legend during his lifetime. The London Sunday Times wrote “One regards him as a sort of miracle … like God teaching Adam on Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel roof…”
Arrau began his piano studies early under his mother who, after the loss of his father when he was 1, taught piano to support the family. At 7, he and his family moved to Germany under a Government grant for Arrau to pursue his musical studies. He was enrolled in the Stern Conservatory and at the age of 10, began to study under the famed Martin Krause, a former Liszt pupil. Krause became a major influence in Arrau’s life, considering Arrau as “his masterpiece”. When Arrau was 15, his beloved teacher Krause died, leaving Arrau to continue on his own. He went on to win the Liszt Prize the following 2 years.
Since the age of 11, Arrau had been concertizing throughout parts of Europe making a major European tour in 1918. At the age of 20 he came to New York to make his Carnegie Hall debut. Throughout this rest of his life, he continued to tour extensively throughout the world playing from a vast repertoire extending from the Baroque period to music of the 2oth century. He was particularly hailed for his interpretations of Brahms, Liszt and Debussy. In 1927, he was awarded the famed International Geneva Prize, which had as judges, Alfred Cortot and Artur Rubinstein.
Arrau’s conception was based on trying to play the music as close to the intention of the composer as possible. He probed deeply into the works and lives of the composers to achieve this. He was quoted as saying, “An interpreter must give his blood to the work interpreted.”
He left a vast number of recordings including the complete piano works of Schumann and Chopin, recordings of all 32 Beethoven Sonata’s and 5 Concerto’s, music of Bach, Mozart Schubert, Debussy and many others.
In addition to performing, Arrau also taught, beginning in 1927 where he taught at the Stern Conservatory until the outbreak of WW II.
He had received numerous awards throughout his life with the “Arrau Award” being established in 1991 by the Robert Schumann Society; notables such as Martha Argerich, Murray Perahia have been recipients of this award.
Hear Arrau play: