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Arrau, Claudio

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Arrau, Claudio, celebrated Chilean-born American pianist; b. Chillán, Feb. 6, 1903; d. Mürzzuschlag, Austria, June 9, 1991. He received early training from his mother, and made his first public appearance in Chilian when he was only 5; at age 6, he played in Santiago. After instruction from Bindo Paoli, he received a scholarship from the Chilean government in 1910 to pursue studies in Berlin, where he was a pupil of Martin Krause at the Stern Cons. (1913–18). On Dec. 10, 1914, he made his Berlin debut in a recital, and then attracted considerable attention through tours of Germany and Scandinavia. In 1918 he made his first tour of Europe. In 1921 he performed in South America and in 1922 in London. In the 1923–24 season, he played in the U.S. but, failing to elicit much of a response from audiences and critics, he pursued his career in Europe; also taught at the Stern Cons. (1924–40). In 1927 he won the Grand Prix International des Pianistes in Geneva, and from 1935 he consolidated his European reputation by giving a series of acclaimed cycles of the keyboard works of Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, and others. In 1940 he left war-ravaged Europe for Santiago, where he opened a piano school. In 1941 he made a highly successful tour of the U.S., where he settled. In subsequent years, he appeared with all the major U.S. orchs. and gave countless recitals. Following the end of World War II in 1945, he pursued an eminent international career and established himself as one of the premiere masters of the piano. In 1978 he gave up his Chilean citizenship in protest against the military regime in his homeland; in 1979, he became a naturalized American citizen. All the same, he remained a revered figure in Chile and in 1983 was awarded the Chilean National Arts Prize. In 1984 he toured the land of his birth to enormous acclaim after an absence of 17 years. He died in Austria while preparing for a recital at the new Brahms museum in Mürzzuschlag. Arrau was a dedicated master of the keyboard and an authoritative interpreter of Beethoven; he also gave distinguished performances of Mozart, Chopin, Schumann, Liszt, and Brahms, among others. In his playing, he combined a Classical purity and precision of style with a rhapsodic éclat.

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