Claudio Arrau plays “Gnomenreigen” by Franz Liszt. Live in Carnegie Hall (1953)

Claudio Arrau (1903-1991) was a Chilean pianist noted for his very wide repertory. He studied in the Stern Conservatory in Berlin. His teacher there, Martin Krause, had been a student of Franz Liszt’s–it’s hard to get a pedagogical lineage that is more direct than that. Young Claudio had learned Liszt’s Transcendental Etudes by the time he was 11 years old. Soon after, Claudio was making piano rolls for player pianos.

In the early 1950s, Carnegie Hall made some promotional films–perhaps intended to be used as television broadcasts. One of these promotional films is of the mature Claudio Arrau playing a very demanding Liszt solo work, the “Gnomenreigen” (Dance of the Gnomes), which is one of Liszt’s Two Concert Études (Zwei Konzertetüden), S.145. By the way, I was a little surprised to see that Arrau was playing a Baldwin piano, and not that other brand–and I don’t mean Yamaha!

On August 17, 1982, the music conglomerate Polygram’s Philips label released a Digital Audio Compact Disc of Chopin Waltzes performed by Claudio Arrau. That was the first-ever classical-music CD. From piano rolls to the first classical compact disc–what an amazing life. Of course, these days, you can pick up the CD from an Amazon non-profit vendor such as Goodwill for all of about four dollars.

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