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Acclaimed pianist Claudio Arrau

Published Oct. 13, 2005

Claudio Arrau, one of the great pianists of the 20th century, died Sunday in Austria. He was 88 and lived in Munich. The Chilean-born pianist died after emergency surgery to correct an intestinal blockage on Saturday, said Friede F. Rothe, Mr. Arrau's personal representative.

Mr. Arrau was in Austria for what was to have been his first performance in two years, a private recital to open a museum in Muerzzuschlag, 60 miles south of Vienna.

He had stopped performing in June 1989 after the death of his wife, Ruth Schneider, a German-born mezzo-soprano, whom he married in 1937.

The Chilean government designated Monday a national day of mourning for Mr. Arrau.

In a career that spanned eight decades, he was prized for an aristocratic approach to the great works of the 19th century.

His specialties included the works of Liszt, to which he brought a rare combination of physical power and philosophical insight, and Beethoven, whose sonatas and concertos he played with an Apollonian breadth that many found both poetic and authoritative.

In the last year, he also had returned to the recording studio after a brief hiatus. In recent years, he recorded complete cycles of the Mozart and Beethoven sonatas and the Beethoven concertos, as well as works by Schubert, Liszt, Debussy and Bach.

Born on Feb. 6, 1903 in Chillan, in central Chile, Mr. Arrau showed his musical abilities early. His father, Carlos Arrau, had died before the boy was a year old, and his mother supported the family by giving piano lessons.

When he was 4 years old, young Claudio startled his mother by playing from memory some of the pieces her students played at their lessons. He could read music before he could read words, and he gave his first public performance in Santiago when he was 5 years old.

Mr. Arrau has long been a favorite of record collectors. Some of his earliest recordings have recently been reissued on compact disk by small historical labels. Philips has announced a 25-CD "Arrau Collection," for release this year.