Claudio Arrau, Piano – New York Philharmonic – Klauss Tennstedt, guest Conductor -February 12, 1982 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection.
Another historic concert this week. The New York Philharmonic, led by guest conductor Klaus Tennstedt and featuring piano legend Claudio Arrau in two works for Piano and Orchestra: Schumann’s Konzertstück for piano and orchestra and Liszt’s Piano Concerto Number 2. The concert concludes with Schubert’s Symphony Number 9.
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. Arrau was raised as a Catholic, but gave it up in his late teens.
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. 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.
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.
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 emigrated from Germany to the United States, eventually settling in Douglaston, Queens, New York, 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. His remains were interred in his native city of Chillán, Chile.
Klaus Tennstedt was a German conductor from Merseburg. He worked with the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, the NDR Symphony Orchestra, world-top ensembles such as the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, and most notably the London Philharmonic Orchestra, with which he was closely associated and recorded many of his celebrated recordings under the EMI label, including a cycle of Mahler’s 10 Symphonies. Known for his interpretation of the Austro-German repertoire, especially his sympathetic approaches towards Mahler, Tennstedt is widely considered an established conductor, one of the most influential and the greatest of the late 20th century.
In 1974, Klaus Tennstedt made his North American debut with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. His first U.S. appearance was shortly after that, with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, on December 13, 1974, conducting an all-Brahms program. The following week, his BSO Bruckner Symphony No. 8 earned laudatory reviews. In Norman Lebrecht’s The Maestro Myth, the story was told that when the Boston management asked Tennstedt what he wanted to conduct, he replied: “You mean I get to choose?” His appearances were so highly acclaimed that as a result, Tennstedt was invited to guest-conduct at the Tanglewood Music Festival and Blossom Music Festival in 1975.
Sit back and enjoy.