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MUSIC REVIEWS : Pianist Claudio Arrau With Pacific Symphony

December 18, 1987|DANIEL CARIAGA

At 84, Claudio Arrau might be expected to slow down, curtail his musical activities, rest on his laurels. The veteran pianist, born in Chile, trained in Berlin and long a resident of this country, could escape comfortably into retirement at any time.

Instead, he continues to tour. Wednesday night his current travels brought him for the first time to Segerstrom Hall at the Orange County Performing Arts Center in Costa Mesa, where he played Beethoven's "Emperor" concerto with Keith Clark and the Pacific Symphony. And nobly.

No one would expect the energetic octogenarian at this point to produce coltish or bumptiousBeethoven playing--in the five decades he has been coming here almost annually, his manner has eschewed a vulgar approach to that composer. Elegance, with appropriate stylistic contrasts, describes Arrau's Beethoven--elegance and spirituality, the latter implicit in the pianist's musical integrity.

The performance, as direct, uncompromising and many-faceted as the work it illuminated, emerged pristine. No mannerisms or self-consciousness from the performer stood between composer and auditor; no ungainliness of tone or technical statement crept into Arrau's clear pianistic execution. Depth of concentration marked every detail, as well as the arching line of thought that held those details together. Conductor Clark and his attentive instrumental ensemble added dimension to the proceedings.

Incidentally, this was not, as advertised, Arrau's first Southland concert appearances in eight years. Since he last played with the Los Angeles Philharmonic in 1979, the pianist has played no fewer than five recital and chamber music dates here.

Clark and orchestra preceded the concerto with a serious, handsomely sounded performance of Brahms' Second Symphony, a reading sometimes deliberate in movement but consistently engrossing as a well-considered rethinking of this familiar landmark. Only some muddy textures in the Adagio marred an otherwise convincing and untroubled musical profile.

In a reading competent, curt and uncaressed, Beethoven's "Creatures of Prometheus" Overture opened the program.

Two irritations marked the evening. At intermission, a piano technician worked tirelessly and loudly at the resident Steinway. And three pages of notes in the program book proved wordy and lengthy, without being effectively informative.

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