Claudio Arrau

Chilean pianist (Chillán, Chile, 1903 - Mürzzuschlag, Austria, 1991)

Piano prodigy Claudio Arrau distinguished himself above all by the wide spectrum and mastery of his repertoire, ranging from baroque to twentieth-century music. True perfectionist, he is considered to be one of the last disciples of Liszt's school and the greatest performer of the romantic repertoire. He is one of the most remarkable pianists of the 20th century.

Born on February 6, 1903 in Chile, Claudio Arrau was introduced to music from an early age, giving his first concert at five and playing for the Chilean president the following year. Thanks to a scholarship from his Chilean government in 1910, Claudio Arrau moved to Germany to study at the Stern Conservatory in Berlin, where he worked under the supervision of Franz Liszt’s former student Martin Krause. After the latter's death in 1918, Arrau refused to work with any other teacher and rejected formal education, unable to overcome the death of his master.

At barely 16, he won the prestigious Franz Liszt International Piano Competition, which he won again the following year in 1920. Already recognized as a young piano virtuoso, he received Geneva International Pianist Grand Prize in 1927, under the jury of Alfred Cortot and Anton Rubinstein. Following the interpretation of numerous cycles of complete works for piano by Bach, Mozart, Schubert, Brahms, Weber, Debussy and, in particular, Beethoven, Claudio Arrau stood out as a reference. He also became a star artist of the label Philips with his numerous recordings of Beethoven, Liszt and Chopin's complete works, which are still exemplary today.

Fleeing the war, Claudio Arrau left Germany in 1941 and settled permanently in New York, fully devoting himself to teaching and concerts. He regularly performed more than one hundred concerts a year, in the United States but also in Canada, South America, Russia, Japan, Australia and Europe. As a teacher, Claudio Arrau was demanding in terms of musical approach: he asked his students to fully understand the work before playing it.

During his career, Claudio Arrau received several of the most prestigious awards including the Royal Philharmonic Society Medal, the Beethoven Medal from the City of New York, the UNESCO International Music Prize, the Order of the Knight of Arts and Letters, and even the Legion of Honour in 1983.

Six landmark date in the life of Claudio Arrau:

1909: Gave a concert for the Chilean president at the age of 6 years old
1919: Winner of the prestigious Franz Liszt International Piano Competition
1941: Fleeing the war in Germany, Claudio Arrau moved to New York.
1905: Appointed Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters
1979: Chilean-American naturalized
1983: Received the Beethoven Medal from the City of New York

Biography from Radio France’s Musical Documentation