This is an absolutely beautiful performance of Chopin's Nocturnes. I listened to several other samples of the other pianists who have released this same collection. Most of them seemed to be flat and sterile compared to this recording by Arrau. In my ears, they seemed to be missing something that this artist had captured in the pieces.
Still, I was hesitant to buy it due to the reviews I had read about the heavy breathing being too distracting to enjoy the music. I decided to take a chance that the reviewers were just being over critical and purchased the cd.
After I got it, I listened to it immediately on my home stereo. Absolutely beautiful and I didn't hear any of the breathing they were talking about. I was relieved and felt great about my decision to purchase the cd. However, the next day I decided to take it with me in my car. There was the breathing loud as could be! Sometimes it was louder than the music! Very distracting and not just on 1 or 2 tracks. The entire cd is riddled with pockets of constant panting as if Claudio were working out on a stairmaster while playing.
Some would say that this is just the mark of a man passionate about the pieces and we should be thankful that so much energy went into his performance. I whole-heartedly agree! My issue isn't with Claudio Arrua's magnificent interpretation but with the poor microphone placement technique and engineering quality of this recording. Even though this a recording from 1978, there is just no excuse for it.
That all being said, I'm still glad I chose to purchase this recording. Even with the breathing I still would rather have this one than the other less soulful recordings we have to chose from. I listen to it often and every time I notice the breathing less and less as this truly beautiful performance of this truly beautiful music unfolds.