In my opinion, these two are the best DVDs concerning Claudio Arrau you can find on the market. In both these Beethovenian recitals, Arrau (1903-1991) is in perfect physical conditions (look at how agilely he moves walking to and from the piano in comparison, for instance, with the 1988 movie concerning the Beethoven's 5th Piano Concerto with Colin Davis), has reached a full interpretative maturity, plays live in a top level international musical context (the Bonn Beethovenfest).
Both concerts (CD1: 1977, color-mono, op. 53, op. 2 no. 3 and op. 111 // CD2: 1970, black&white-mono, op. 27 no. 1, op. 109, op. 57, op. 27 no. 2 and op. 81a) definitively testify Arrau's unsurpassed mastery: it is self-evident that he exactly knows what to do and that he does it, perfectly. In other terms, he completely dominates the stuff from a technical, intellectual, cultural and spiritual point of view.
As Neville Cardus suggested, Arrau is able to drive us inside and through the secret aspects of Music. But not by means of a mere intellectualistic approach. It is self-evident, in these DVDs, that Arrau plays in a state of transfiguration.
He does not use the Ego, but something of superior that transcends the Ego and all its limitations (vanity or fear, for instance) or constraining bonds. Inserted in this context, his terrific technical mastery is the instrument and the pre-condition that allows Arrau to transcend the written music, nevertheless remaining faithful to it (he edited for Peters all the 32 Beethoven's sonatas), and to bring back to us the wholeness of the message encrypted in it.
In these movies, it is evident that Arrau does not minimally fear difficulties. He might incur into some rare and light errors, but he does not sacrifices the exact sound (that is: the meaning) he wants to accomplish to the fear of a mistake. Thus Arrau is able, calmly, to risk (and accomplish) what otherwise might be considered temerarious.
He risks incredible, but never empty, pianissimo; he risks powerful, but never screamed, fortissimo; he risks in glissando, in trills, no matter if they all are in an exposed position: the target is the wished sonority-meaning, not only the right pitch.
Arrau is able to make the wood of the piano live and vividly vibrate (that is why all his dynamics were perfectly and exactly audible from the first row of the audience to the last one); consequently, the piano really sings and brings its voice (like the singers of the old school "portavano la voce") to every corner of the concert hall.
In conclusion, who really wants to hear and see, this one will find in these DVDs what best he/she will ever hear and see during a piano recital.
Sound and video quality, even if the standards are those of good 1970s' TV broadcastings, is defined enough to let you fully appreciate these incomparable documents and to really live the events.
In both recitals, the main problem for Arrau, and, consequently, for us, is an "environmental" one. I am referring to the physical heat in which Arrau had to play. Arrau was famous for not sweating at all, also performing the most difficult and large programs.
Here the powerful lights used for the broadcasting necessities make him abundantly and continuously sweat. Drops fall from his front into his eyes and from his nose onto the keyboard. Everybody, who has played a little, knows what is the terrible effect of all that. Arrau stoically goes on (and we suffer for him!), but at every break he has to use his handkerchief (it was so rare!) ... I think that two main finger slips at the entrance of the op. 111 sonata and some breaks in his concentration during its playing might be connected with those unacceptable conditions. What a pity! Therefore, on a video support, the best op.111 performed by Arrau remains the ineffable one recorded for EMI in 1970 (b&w, mono, studio).
I also think that the excessive cuts in audience applauses and acclamations reduce the reproduction of the atmosphere of those wonderful and unique events.