I have been dipping into Claudio Arrau’s 1960’s Beethoven piano sonata cycle since getting it a month or so ago. Over the past few days I have been listening often to the op. 101 sonata in particular. Arrau plays the first movement much slower than any of the other renditions that I have, and it is 4’50” of the most intense yet lyrical playing I have ever heard.
The op. 101 first movement is going to the head of my ‘will play soon’ queue. I won’t be attempting the rest of the sonata for a while yet, if at all. It is frightfully difficult, particularly the polyphonic parts. It is second in difficulty, apparently, only to the op. 106 ‘Hammerklavier’. You know the pianist is in for a hard time when Beethoven, himself a virtuoso at the keyboard, described this piece as a ‘sonata that is hard to play’.
I think Arrau’s cycle is becoming my personal favourite, slow tempi and all.