Musicianship, Thoreau, Pasternak and more; Arrau reflects on life as a musician; Conversations with Arrau, by Joseph Horowitz. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. 384 pp. $15.95.

Pianist Claudio Arrau gave his first concert in 1908, when he was five. His talks in this book with critic Joseph Horowitz range over life as a child prodigy, Germany in the '20s, teachers and teaching, keyboard technique, musicians, and the logistics of consy -/ring and programming. Also included are conversations with other musicians about Arrau.

The general reader may find lengthy sections of particular pieces hard to follow. Yet the conversations reveal the complexity of a musician's approach to his or her instrument and each piece of music. Arrau speaks of them as of encounters with other living beings.

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