Heaven and earth and I are of the same root,
The ten-thousand things and I are of one substance.
Arrau is the tree-planter of the piano. I imagine him barehanded weeding his garden, watering the plants, sinking his fingers deep into the soil, savoring the earth, his fingers penetrating like the spades of a shovel. He’s at one with nature.
Practicing for him must have given him the same sensation as tending his garden, applying the same loving care to weeding Brahms and Liszt.
There’s a natural sinking, unforced depth to Arrau that makes his playing speak with the wisdom of a 500-year-old Oak. The older he got, the slower he played, and the more espressivo every note became. He became increasingly sensitive. He searched out emotional tension and sucked the marrow out of it. Perhaps it became too slow at times, but such expression! He once said, “Don’t be afraid to be boring.” Granted, it did sometimes get to slow and languid, but he certainly had courage and conviction. I sometimes wonder if he didn’t intentionally try to bore at times trying to distinguish himself morally from more flashy pianists like Horowitz …
His philosophical approach to music has a serious German bent to it but his soul has Latin warmth. He sings warm, thick energy into a clearheaded, cool, logical form.
There’s an odd resemblance to Rachmaninoff. His depth is like sinking into sand whereas Rachmaninoff’s is more actively pressed, but they both penetrate deep below the key-bed.
Whenever I want to really savor the notes slowly and touch base with the wet earth, I think of Arrau and let him speak to me and through me, sometimes for a few minutes, sometimes for hours, sometimes for days at a time. He’s been a faithful companion and inspiration for years and years.