The Arrau Technique

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This presentation has already taken place. However, I’d certainly welcome the chance to present this somewhere else someday as well!

About the Event

I am giving a presentation titled The Arrau Technique to the Northwest Arkansas Music Teachers Association (NAMTA), of which I have been a member for the past four years. It will be held in Becker Hall at the First United Methodist Church of Bella Vista on Saturday, March 10, 2018, from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. It is open to the public and free of charge.

I will begin with a brief discussion of the origins of modern piano technique, which evolved along with the instrument at the turn of the 20th century. The focus will be on how Arrau approaches certain passages from the piano literature, which I’ll demonstrate using snippets from a recently published book by Victoria von Arx, mentioned later in this page. Since the best demonstration is action, I’ll also intersperse my presentation with the performance of several short pieces. I’ll be glad to answer any questions throughout the presentation and at the end.

My Connection to Arrau

Claudio Arrau was one of the most celebrated pianists of the 20th century. Unlike many of his luminary colleagues, he also dedicated time to teaching a number of students, who in turn became master teachers of Arrau’s principles to my generation. My teacher, German Diez, studied with Arrau starting in 1945, after emigrating from Cuba, and instructed for over half a century before passing in 2014. He taught privately at his apartment on the Upper West Side in New York City, as well as at the Greenwich House Music School in Greenwich Village, and at Purchase College in upstate Purchase, New York. Over time, I studied with him in all three places. Although he never taught at an elite conservatory, students from The Juilliard School and beyond studied with him on the side when they found they needed technical help that their teachers could not provide.

My recollections of five years spent as a student of Mr. Diez have become a bit fuzzy, though I have been encouraged to revisit the roots of my training thanks to a book written by Victoria von Arx. She was so fond of her study with Mr. Diez that she researched and wrote a book about the Arrau legacy. I connected briefly with Ms. von Arx to congratulate her on her work and to exchange thoughts as a fellow Diez student, though we never crossed paths during our study. I contacted her again in the summer of 2017 as I was putting together this idea of a presentation, and she was gracious enough to exchange several emails as to how I might proceed.

The Book

Piano Lessons with Claudio Arrau: A Guide to His Philosophy and Techniques by Victoria A. von Arx

I wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn about the Arrau technique. However, it’s a very thick book and reads cover to cover more like a post-doctoral research paper than as a condensed, practical guide that you might have hoped to get. However, you can skip to valuable instruction in Chapter 5. If you’re up to the challenge, it’s well worth the price of the book and the time it would take to integrate these new approaches into your playing.

The Arrau Biography

Arrau on Music and Performance (Dover Books on Music)
Conversations With Arrau

The above two books are the same, but I list both since Arrau on Music and Performance is the reprint by Dover of the original Conversations with Arrau. Though Conversations with Arrau is out of print, there are a slew of used copies available on Amazon at a sizable discount to the reprint.

Even though this book is largely a biography, there are several chapters explaining Arrau’s musical approach and one just on technique. It’s an easy and enjoyable read, published just after Arrau’s 80th birthday, when he was still actively performing.

Demonstration Pieces

  • Rondo Alla Turca from Sonata in A Major, KV 331 – W.A. Mozart
  • Préambule from Carnaval, Op. 9 – Robert Schumann
  • Impromptu Op. 142, No. 4 in F minor – Franz Schubert

Summary

What: The Arrau Technique
Date/Time: Saturday, March 10, 2018, 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Cost: Free
Where: First United Methodist Church of Bella Vista
20 Boyce Drive | Bella Vista, AR 72715

Last Updated 2018-02-19 | Originally Posted 2017-12-23