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Complete Nocturnes & Impromptus

4.1 out of 5 stars 64 customer reviews

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Audio CD, August 12, 1997
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Editorial Reviews

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Claudio Arrau considered the Nocturnes among Chopin's deepest, most searching works, rather than mere descriptive mood paintings, and he plays them that way. The same can be said vis-à-vis Arrau's Impromptus, with brooding textures and cosmic breadth that leave the drawing room behind. --Jed Distler
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (August 12, 1997)
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Label: Philips
  • ASIN: B0000041ND
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (64 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #46,620 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Christopher Smith on February 28, 2000
Format: Audio CD
This is an inspired release by the Philips label; hopefully, it will generate new interest in Arrau's Chopin and give him the kind of credit he deserves. Arrau is so underrated as to almost pass unnoticed when the truly great exponents of Chopin are spoken of, yet I believe he belongs in the company of Horowitz, Rubinstein, Agerich, Pollini and Zimermann. Best known for his awesome Beethoven cycle, Arrau has an almost transcendent grasp of Chopin's many moods--he makes every Chopin piece he plays tell a compelling, unforgettable narrative. His chosen tempi really wring the emotion out of every note, but his treatment of a piece like the opus 15 #1 shows he has the kind of muscularity in his playing necessary to avoid being a mere Chopin sentimentalist. Arrau recorded most of his Chopin in the '70's, and his Ballades and Preludes are staggeringly good (I have yet to hear a better version than his of the fourth ballade). I am waiting for Philips to re-release these treasures on CD, and hopefully they'll do it as they did here with the Nocturnes and Impromptus--a remastered, 2CD for the price of one bargain. I started with the Nocturnes like many people do--by buying Rubinstein's set. They're fantastic, but Arrau just takes these pieces farther than I ever imagined they could go, and you can't ask for more than that.
ps. Check out Arrau under the "Great Pianists of the 20th Century" series that's available here on Amazon if you want to further sample his enormous repertoire.
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If anyone wanted a great introduction to the late Chilean pianist Claudio Arrau I'd point them to this set. This is some of the most distinctive Chopin playing I've ever heard, beautifully-recorded. I've been comparing this to Rubinstein's set all week and Arrau comes out on top almost every time.

Some people may find his push-pull rubato a little too much, but I like it here. Listen to how he never repeats a phrase exactly. Each time he plays it he caresses a different note, a different part of the phrase, accents a different beat ever so slightly. There's no such thing as "passage work" with Arrau. He has said that every note in a piece is equally important, and he plays these works that way, rather than as just light dreamy moonlight pieces, and thus brings out demons in them I've never heard before. For just one of many examples, listen to the pedal just before the coda in the Second Nocturne, Op. 9. No one does moments like that like Arrau--he makes a very special statement effortlessly, without flash or drama. His recordings reward careful, repeated listening, and bore those searching for surface flair.

It's interesting to note that he considered the Nocturnes to be the peak of Chopin's output, an extraordinary view. Most other pianists--Rubinstein is a fine example--handle the Nocturnes as small parlor pieces, but Arrau gives them a big-scale treatment. You could argue they lose some of their intimate charm, their old fashioned quality, this way, like listening to Mozart chamber music through a bullhorn, but I think Arrau's view has a lot going for it. He brings out a certain agitation in No. 2 in Op. 37 in G-major, that other pianists miss. He finds moonlight and mystery in the constantly changing figurations of No.
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Format: Audio CD
This is an absolutely beautiful performance of Chopin's Nocturnes. I listened to several other samples of the other pianists who have released this same collection. Most of them seemed to be flat and sterile compared to this recording by Arrau. In my ears, they seemed to be missing something that this artist had captured in the pieces.
Still, I was hesitant to buy it due to the reviews I had read about the heavy breathing being too distracting to enjoy the music. I decided to take a chance that the reviewers were just being over critical and purchased the cd.
After I got it, I listened to it immediately on my home stereo. Absolutely beautiful and I didn't hear any of the breathing they were talking about. I was relieved and felt great about my decision to purchase the cd. However, the next day I decided to take it with me in my car. There was the breathing loud as could be! Sometimes it was louder than the music! Very distracting and not just on 1 or 2 tracks. The entire cd is riddled with pockets of constant panting as if Claudio were working out on a stairmaster while playing.
Some would say that this is just the mark of a man passionate about the pieces and we should be thankful that so much energy went into his performance. I whole-heartedly agree! My issue isn't with Claudio Arrua's magnificent interpretation but with the poor microphone placement technique and engineering quality of this recording. Even though this a recording from 1978, there is just no excuse for it.
That all being said, I'm still glad I chose to purchase this recording. Even with the breathing I still would rather have this one than the other less soulful recordings we have to chose from. I listen to it often and every time I notice the breathing less and less as this truly beautiful performance of this truly beautiful music unfolds.
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