This document is dedicated to two very great masters of the piano, musicians who never made the slightest concession to success. Both were child prodigies, and they made their debuts on stage before the age of ten. On the playbill at the Queen Hall in London announcing the Concerto for Piano No. 1 by Tchaikovsky performed by a child pianist aged eight, all that featured was his first name "Solomon," not his last name Cutner. That remained.
As for Claudio Arrau, he gave his first concert in Berlin when he was eleven, before becoming the pupil of Martin Krause (one of Liszt's last pupils). As a teenager, Solomon, who found giving concerts stressful, started to hate the piano. He had to stop playing for several years before being able to enjoy it again. Claudio Arrau confides one day that being a child prodigy "shut him off from the piano for years" and that it was psychoanalysis that helped him.
Both of them, who were contemporaries (Solomon was born in 1902 and Arrau in 1903), had difficult careers. It took Claudio Arrau a long time to gain public recognition whereas "an accident" suddenly interrupted Solomon in full flight. In 1956, a few weeks after the images you are about to see were filmed, a cerebral attack paralysed him. He was fifty-four and he lived another thirty-two years, walled in silence.
These images that show him playing the Appassionata Sonata in F Minor by Beethoven are all the more moving because of this. With his usual refinement, Solomon gives a fiery rendition of the Appassionata. Claudio Arrau also plays Beethoven, his favourite composer. We see him in Paris in 1970 give a rendition of the Sonata in C Minor, Op. 111 by Beethoven played with masterly control.
With the London Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Antal Doráti
Denise Duval (soprano), Gabriel Bacquier (baritone), Jean-Pierre Rampal (flute), Jacques Février (piano), Georges Prêtre (conductor)