Chilean pianist Claudio Arrau (1903 – 1991) had a direct connection to Liszt through his teacher Martin Krause. Renowned throughout his long career for a virtuoso technique and incredible stamina – he once played all Bach’s keyboard works from memory over 12 recitals – Arrau kept his pianistic skills well into old age. From the mid-1960s until his retirement he recorded exclusively for Philips, covering all the Beethoven Sonatas and Concertos (twice), Mozart, Schubert, Schumann, Brahms, and Liszt. During those years his scrupulous musicianship intensified, and critics began to use adjectives like “colossal” and “reverent”. Now Universal has released a handsome 80-disc box set of his Philips recordings. Highlights (for me) include the Beethoven Violin Sonatas, where he accompanies the sweet-toned Arthur Grumiaux, and Liszt’s Transcendental Étudesplayed with enviable fluency at the age of 73. Philips’ close-up sound, so suitable for Alfred Brendel’s chiseled clarity, struggles to cope with Arrau’s uncompromising amplitude – for example...

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