Sweet treat: Arrau’s 1957 Australia tour

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  • The power of words: once a reviewer said that Arrau pounded the piano… and it took some hours of listening to him to erase or modify that thought. It seems when anyone plays loudly or forcefully on the piano, there’s an element of “pounding” – and it’s more a question of whether it’s musically justified.

    • In the hands of a great pianist, loud playing can still sound beautiful. Good pedaling and a balance in the dynamics at the level of every individual finger can go a very long way.

      When it came to projecting a rich piano sound, Arrau had few equals and hardly any superiors (maybe also in other respects…). Personally I hear a beautiful sound in the beginning of this clip, as I did on two occasions when I had the great privilege of hearing him live.

    • Claudio Arrau is on record – I think in Joseph Horowitz’s book – as saying that when he tested the piano for a recital and he found he couldn’t do glissando octaves then he took the Waldstein out of the programme. Normally he didn’t test the piano- with complete trust in his tuner the first time he touched the keyboard was often at the opening of the concert!

  • It’s very nice. Also quite interesting to hear the Sydney Symphony, which even 61 years ago sounded like a very competent band, belying any assumptions one might have about it being a bit of a cultural backwater back then.

    Also curious what a tour to Australia would mean back in 1957. It was not an easy trip to get down there, so you’d think he’d do a bunch of concertos and recitals in the major (and maybe even some minor?) cities over a couple weeks.

    • It’s a few years later but in 1965 Jorge Bolet arrived by Quantas at Sydney’s Kingsford Smith Airport to begin a 14 week ABC concert tour of all the states of Australia.

    • Solomon toured Australia in 1946 and 1954. Accounts of these tours make remarkable reading — the 1954 most of all — and are to be found in Bryan Crimp’s Solo: The Biography of Solomon.

      • When Solomon arrived in Australia, he was met at the docks by Sir Charles Moses, director of the then Australian Broadcasting Commission. Moses took great delight in introducing himself to Solomon.

  • First footage I’ve ever seen of Malko. Does anyone know of something else? I hope the entire performance exists. Too bad there isn’t a camera set up to observe him during the tuttis.

  • The fact that this video achieved around 42k views within about three days of being posted online by ABC shows the level of continuing interest in this great artist.

  • I never, sadly, had the privilege of hearing Claudio Arrau live. When I was a naive undergraduate student, I stumbled onto his Chopin recordings. Those led to his Liszt and Beethoven recordings. That was the moment I realized what real music making could be, and what real pianism was. He is still the model for me in just about every respect. I’ll never play even remotely as well as he did, but work toward it every day. I treasure his video performances, “Claudio Arrau: A Life in Music” included.

  • I was re-reading Sametz’ book on the SSO history and was staggered to re-discover the musical tourists to Oz in the pre & post war eras. Ormandy, Szell, Beecham, Klemperer (conducting open air concerts, of all things) Barbirolli, among others. And the first foreign orchestra to visit Australia was the Czech Phil under Karel Ancerl, closly followed by the Boston SO with Munch. Remarkable.
    It goes some way to offsetting the depressingly large list of performers who never made an appearance here at all…

  • I was at the Royal Festival Hall in London in the 1950s to hear Klemperer and Arrau in a Beethoven concerto. Arrau was playing the solo bit as if it was the last thing he was to do on this earth. Klemperer turned around and raised his eyebrows, and he had them in profusion, and intimated that the guy was crazy. Arrau was bouncing up and down on the stool. ‘‘Twas many years ago but unforgettable.

    • One might paraphrase Bill Shankly and say that to Arrau playing the piano was not a matter of life and death – it was more important than that. I did read that during one rehearsal of the Emperor concerto Klemperer turned to Arrau in puzzlement during a “trill”. When Arrau explained what he was trying to do, Klemperer said, “But a trill is just a trill”. Arrau unimpressed. He had learned the mysterious art of trilling from his teacher Martin Krause who had learned it from the great man himself Liszt.

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