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< Classical Carson | Main | Danke, Herr Brendel >

The not-so-retiring Alfred Brendel...retires

Posted at 12:20 PM on December 18, 2008 by Fred Child (4 Comments)

After a nearly 60-year career, Alfred Brendel gives his last concert tonight in Vienna.

I wouldn't use this adjective with many living pianists, but Alfred Brendel really is legendary. His recordings and concerts have helped define the modern sound of Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, and Haydn.


Brendel joined me for a conversation in 2005. Click on the links below to listen. Highlights include:

Brendel on Mozart (3 minutes).

Brendel on revisions (75 seconds).

Brendel on live recordings (3:30).

Brendel on his youth...he was no prodigy, and doesn't really understand how he became the pianist he is (3:15).

Brendel on making music with his son, cellist Adrian Brendel (2:30).

And if you'd like to hear a bigger chunk all at once (13 minutes), here you go.

With his bug-eyed plastic rimmed glasses, his tendency not to smile in concert or for publicity photos, and his reserved-to-the-point-of-steely stage demeanor, he's created for himself the image of a cool, austere intellectual. In fact, Brendel sees humor as a vital part of life, and has a curious taste for the absurd and grotesque. Check out this segment from the 2000 TV documentary "Man and Mask."

Any special memories of Brendel's concerts or recordings? I'd love to hear...

Comments ( 4 )

I first encountered Alfred Brendel when I was an undergrad at Berkeley in the 1960s. I recall that he played Schubert Impromptus at a lunchtime concert in Hertz Hall (I think students were encouraged to bring a bag lunch!). I'll never forget how much he reminded me of an ostrich when he strode onto the stage. I'm sorry live audiences will no longer be able to form such indelible impressions for themselves. And oh, how I wish I had been able to catch one of his fall concerts in Budapest when I was there this fall. Thank you for your farewell tribute to this consummate artist.

Posted by Kathleen V. Kish | December 18, 2008 10:37 PM

I was just listening today's show - you can't honestly tell me that a 12 year old Korngold wrote that piece! It's gorgeous, and what's more, it's schmaltzy. What 12 year old knows from schmaltz?

Posted by Alex | December 19, 2008 8:30 AM

Actually, Alex...I was wrong. According to the Grove Dictionary of Music, Korngold was *11* when he wrote that. Korngold was born in 1897, which provides a bit of context for this excerpt from the Grove entry on Korngold:

In 1906 he played his cantata Gold to Gustav Mahler, who pronounced him a genius...At the age of 11 he composed the ballet Der Schneemann, a sensation when it was first performed at the Vienna Court Opera (1910); he followed this with a Piano Trio and a remarkable Piano Sonata in E that so impressed Artur Schnabel that he championed the work all over Europe. Richard Strauss remarked: ‘One’s first reaction that these compositions are by a child are those of awe and concern that so precocious a genius should follow its normal development …. This assurance of style, this mastery of form, this characteristic expressiveness, this bold harmony, are truly astonishing!’...

Posted by Fred Child Author Profile Page | December 19, 2008 9:07 AM

Great story, thanks Kathleen.
Hah! An ostrich! I can see it. In fact, taking a look at picture #4 in the official Brendel gallery, and I can *really* see it. http://www.alfredbrendel.com/gallery.php

Posted by Fred Child Author Profile Page | December 19, 2008 9:12 AM

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