Arrau was born in Chillán, Chile, the son of Carlos Arrau, an ophthalmologist who died when Claudio was only a year old, and Lucrecia León Bravo de Villalba, a piano teacher. He belonged to an old, prominent family of Southern Chile. His ancestor Lorenzo de Arrau, a Spanish engineer, was sent to Chile by King Carlos III of Spain. Through his great-grandmother, María del Carmen Daroch del Solar, Arrau was a descendant of the Campbells of Glenorchy, a Scottish noble family.
Arrau was a child prodigy, giving his first concert at age five. When he was 6 he auditioned in front of several congressmen and President Pedro Montt, who became so impressed as to start arrangements for his future education. At age 8 he was sent on a 10-year long grant from the Chilean government to study in Germany, travelling in the company of his mother and sister Lucrecia. He was admitted at the Stern Conservatory of Berlinwhere he eventually became a pupil of Martin Krause, who had studied under Franz Liszt. At the age of 11 he could play Liszt’s Transcendental Etudes, considered to be one of the most difficult sets of works ever written for the piano, and also Brahms‘s Paganini Variations. Arrau’s first recordings were made on Aeolian Duo-Art player piano music rolls. Krause died after five years of teaching Arrau, who at fifteen was devastated at the loss of his mentor. Read more here