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.