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Book Review

Piano Lessons with Claudio Arrau

Piano Lessons with Claudio Arrau by Von Arx

A Guide to His Philosophy and Techniques

Victoria A. Von Arx
Oxford University Press
Musical examples, bibliography, index
Alkaline paper, 486 pages
ISBN-10: 0199924341
ISBN-13: 978-0199924349 (paperback)
ISBN-10: 0199924325
ISBN-13: 978-0199924325 (hardcover)
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Arrau, born in 1903, was one of the outstanding pianists of the last century. His performances with the conductor Carl Maria Giulini represent especially apt pairings, which should say something about his style, for those who know Giulini's. Arrau strove for expression rather than virtuosity, although he was surely capable of the latter.

Von Arx's very substantial account of Arrau's manner of playing, which includes very specific discussion of hands, wrists and arms, fills the second of three sections of her book. The first section concerns three predecessors: Martin Krause, Rudolph Breithaupt, and, more distantly, Franz Liszt. Section Three is about Arrau's teaching, focusing on his collaboration with Rafael da Silva, and includes a conclusion. A substantial Appendix consists of "lessons" on a Chopin Ballade, Beethoven's Sonata in A Flat Major, Op. 110 and Eroica Variations, Op. 35; and Richard Strauss' Burlesque.

The audience for this book, which grew out of von Arx's doctoral dissertation, will be serious pianists and piano teachers. Von Arx, a pianist herself, acknowledges a large debt to Germán Diez, who "spent a lifetime imparting Arrau's pianistic approach and his own wisdom…" as well as putting the author in touch with many of Arrau's pupils, whom she interviewed.

Copyright © 2015 by R. James Tobin.