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Salient. Victoria University of Wellington Students' Newspaper. Volume 31, No. 24. October 1, 1968

Concerts — Virtuoso's virtues at keyboard


Virtuoso's virtues at keyboard

Claudio Arrau has been described as one of the foremost virtuosos of the keyboard and his Wellington recital gave most demonstrative proof of this. Throughout the whole programme his hands moved across the keyboard with the unerring accuracy and sensitivity of a master. The programme comprised some well known Beethoven, some lesser known Mozart and minor works by Debussy and Chopin.

The opening piece was the familiar "Moonlight" sonata. From the first movement Arrau demonstrated his precision of touch and his remarkable powers of interpreting Beethoven so that new depth and meaning become immediately apparent. Arrau put much power into the final movement, each note emerging distinctly. Throughout the piece there was a clever and subtle use of dynamics which amply illustrated Beethoven's own title for the piece —"Sontat quasi una fantasia"

There were two pieces by Mozart, Fantasia and Sonata in C minor, K475 and K457. These are not as generally well known as some of Mozart's other works for piano Arrau is renowned for his interpretation of Mozart and treated the work with the agility and deftness which the Fantasy demands.

The Sonata, however, proved to be the more interesting of the two works. The opening movement was played with graceful, delicate fingering which brought out its almost lyric quality. The second movement was played with finesse, and its mood of seriousness, of concentration and thought was well conveyed by the pianist's clever manipulation of the scores nuances. The third movement formed an apt conclusion to the work. It was a precise piece, seen [unclear: ng] to represent decision and finality. Arrau delivered this movement in a deliberate manner, using his deft yet firm touch to conclude the piece in a manner Mozart would surely have approved.

The three pieces by Debussy were from the Suite Estampes, written in 1903. All were impressionistic and delivered with a force and concentration that conveyed the essential spirit of Impressionism. The interpretation was sympathetic yet demanding of the music. The first piece was "Pagodes", a short piece showing the influence of gamelan music. It is really a musical trifle after the Eastern style; the playing was light but pithy. The next piece, "Soiree dans Granade", was impressive, its Habaneran rhythm played it with power, and insight. The final one, "Jardins sous la Pluie", suggested that countryside seen through rain. Again Arrau used his precision, his magical control of dynamics, to construct either great sheets of sound or just single notes spiralling delicately down.

There were two ballades and a scherzo by Chopin. The first ballade (Number 3 in A Flat) had a liting, dramatic rhythym and was meant to suggest a chivalric age. The pianist worked relentlessly and skilfully to weave the fabric of this pleasant and interesting ballade.

The other ballade (Number 4 in F Minor) was, however, of a very different mood. Whereas the first was light and lilting, this one was centred on a haunting melody. There were some very interesting developments and modulation throughout as the piece proceeded. After a series of dramatic interruptions, minor climaxes in fact, the piece ended on a strong coda. Arrau played superbly, his hands flashing the length of the keyboard with consummate ease.

The final piece was Scherzo Number 1 in B Minor. Arrau's full genious displayed itself in marvellous technique, his masterly interpretation and intense concentration upon his task. This scherzo was a lively, jesting piece which did not conform to the usual general pattern of the scherzo proper.

The recital was one of the best in Wellington this year. It is hoped that this "commanding master of the keyboard" will return some day.