Waldstein Compared

Waldstein compared…

This two – DVD set features pianist Claudio Arrau performing eight Beethoven sonatas at Bonn’s prestigious Beethovenfest in 1970, the composer’s bicentenary, and also in 1977.

I have listened to recordings of Mr. Arrau any number of times; and I listened again this morning. For some reason, I simply do not connect with Claudio Arrau interpretive style. My sense is that he performs the first work on DVD-1, the Beethoven Waldstein Sonata, at a fairly measured pace. What I miss is the passion, the excitement, the dynamic variation, the emotion that is always present in Beethoven’s work. Yea… most of the notes are all there, but I am not satisfied. I want to be more moved, more astounded, more emotionally amazed, as the performer communicates Beethoven’s message…

Music is such a personal experience that I make no excuses for my reaction. Some of you out there may revere Claudio Arrau. If so… I don’t aim to interfere with your pleasure, or with the memory you may have of his playing. I have simply come to experience performances that are much more satisfying for me.

Let me illustrate:

Here is Mr. Arrau doing the Beethoven Waldstein sonata, as I heard it



While I don’t mind the somewhat slower tempo than I am used to, the music – for me – lacks passion and excitement.

As a contrast, here is Nelson Freire doing the same music



And now, let’s hear Martha Argerich (sorry… this is just the audio)



Here are the second and the movements as performed by Ms. Argerich



Did you hear what sublime pianissimos Ms. Argerich produces at the opening of the second movement!

And finally, here is Daniel Barenboim with his performance of this same masterpiece



Bottom line: I did not care for the Arrau DVD; and I was able to locate many amazing interpretations that are a lot more satisfying to me.


Tags: Claudio Arrau, Beethoven Sonatas, Waldstein

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