Alfred Brendel

Last updated

Alfred Brendel
Alfredbrendel-cropped.jpg
Brendel in 2010
Born (1931-01-05) 5 January 1931 (age 90)
Wiesenberg, Czechoslovakia
Alma materGraz Conservatory
Occupation
  • pianist
  • composer
  • writer

Alfred Brendel KBE (born 5 January 1931) is an Austrian classical pianist, poet, author, composer and lecturer who is known particularly for his performances of Mozart, Schubert, Schoenberg, and Beethoven. [1]

Contents

Biography

Brendel was born in Wizemberk, [2] Czechoslovakia (now Loučná nad Desnou, Czech Republic) to a non-musical family. They moved to Zagreb, Yugoslavia (now Croatia), when Brendel was three years old and there he began at the age of six piano lessons with Sofija Deželić. He later moved to Graz, Austria, where he studied piano with Ludovica von Kaan at the Graz Conservatory and composition with Artur Michel. Towards the end of World War II, the 14-year-old Brendel was sent back to Yugoslavia to dig trenches.

After the war, Brendel composed music as well as continued to play the piano, to write and to paint. However, he never had more formal piano lessons and, although he attended master classes with Edwin Fischer and Eduard Steuermann, he was largely self-taught after the age of 16. [3]

Brendel gave his first public recital in Graz at the age of 17. [1] He called it "The Fugue in Piano Literature", and as well as fugal works by Johann Sebastian Bach, Johannes Brahms and Franz Liszt, it included a sonata of Brendel's own composition. [4] In 1949 he won fourth prize in the Ferruccio Busoni Piano Competition in Bolzano, Italy. He then toured throughout Europe and Latin America, slowly building his career and participating in a few masterclasses of Paul Baumgartner, Eduard Steuermann and Edwin Fischer. [3]

At the age of 21, in 1952, he made his first solo recording, Franz Liszt's Weihnachtsbaum , the work's world premiere recording. [5] His first concerto recording, Sergei Prokofiev's Piano Concerto No. 5 had been made a couple of years earlier. He went on to make a string of other records, including three complete sets of the Beethoven piano sonatas (one on Vox Records and two on Philips Records). He was the first performer to record the complete solo piano works of Beethoven. [6] He has also recorded works by Liszt, Brahms (including Brahms' concertos), Robert Schumann and particularly Franz Schubert. [7] An important collection of Alfred Brendel is the complete Mozart piano concertos recorded with Sir Neville Marriner and the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, which is included in the Philips 180 CD complete Mozart Edition. [8] He has recorded or performed little of the music of Frédéric Chopin, but not because of any lack of admiration for the composer. He considers Chopin's Preludes "the most glorious achievement in piano music after Beethoven and Schubert". [4]

Brendel recorded extensively for the Vox label, providing them his first of three sets of the complete Beethoven sonatas. His breakthrough came after a recital of Beethoven at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London, the day after which three major record labels called his agent. Around this time he moved to Hampstead, London, where he still resides. [1] Since the 1970s, Brendel has recorded for Philips Classics Records. [9] Brendel completed many tours in Europe, the United States, South America, Japan and Australia. [10] He had a particularly close association with the Vienna and Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, but played regularly with all major orchestras in the US and elsewhere. [11] Brendel has performed many cycles of the Beethoven Sonatas and Concertos, and was one of the few pianists who, in later years, could continue to fill large halls. [11] [12] He is only the third pianist (after Emil von Sauer and Wilhelm Backhaus) to have been awarded honorary membership of the Vienna Philharmonic, and he was awarded the Hans von Bülow Medal by the Berlin Philharmonic. [4]

Reviewing his 1993 Beethoven: The Late Piano Sonatas (Philips Duo 438374), Damian Thompson of The Daily Telegraph described it as "a more magisterial approach ... sprinkled with touches of Brendel's strange, quirky humour," [13] while Robert Cummings at classical.net said, "There have been many fine pianists who have recorded the Beethoven sonatas with acclaim, including Richard Goode .. Vladimir Ashkenazy, and the justly praised Artur Schnabel. Brendel certainly takes his place among the greatest Beethoven interpreters of any time, and this disc finds him at his most inspiring." [14]

In April 2007 Brendel was one of the initial signatories of the "Appeal for the Establishment of a Parliamentary Assembly at the United Nations". [15]

In 2009 Brendel was featured in the award-winning German-Austrian documentary Pianomania , about a Steinway & Sons piano tuner, which was directed by Lilian Franck and Robert Cibis. The film premiered theatrically in North America, where it was met with positive reviews by The New York Times, [16] as well as in Asia and throughout Europe, and is a part of the Goethe-Institut catalogue.

Work

Brendel frequently performed the music of Haydn, Beethoven, Schubert and Mozart. He has played relatively few 20th century works but has performed Arnold Schoenberg's Piano Concerto. Toward the end of his concert career he stopped playing some physically demanding pieces, such as the Hammerklavier Sonata of Beethoven, due to arthritis.[ citation needed ]

Although Brendel remained popular and praised throughout his career, he often had a reputation of interpretative coldness. He was lauded by music critic Michael Steinberg as "the new Schnabel", whereas NY Times critic Harold C. Schonberg noted that some critics and specialists accused the pianist of "pedanticism". [17] Brendel's playing is sometimes described as being "cerebral", [18] and he has said that he believes the primary job of the pianist is to respect the composer's wishes without showing off himself, or adding his own spin on the music: "I am responsible to the composer, and particularly to the piece". [11] Brendel cites, in addition to his mentor and teacher Edwin Fischer, pianists Alfred Cortot, Wilhelm Kempff, and the conductors Bruno Walter and Wilhelm Furtwängler as particular influences on his musical development.[ citation needed ]

Brendel has worked with younger pianists such as Paul Lewis, [19] Amandine Savary, [20] Till Fellner [21] and, most recently, Kit Armstrong. [22] [23] He has also performed in concert and recorded with his son Adrian [24] and has appeared in many Lieder recitals with Hermann Prey, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Matthias Goerne.

In November 2007 Brendel announced that he would retire from the concert platform after his concert of 18 December 2008 in Vienna, which featured him as soloist in Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 9 in E-flat; the orchestra (the Vienna Philharmonic) was conducted by Sir Charles Mackerras. [6] His final concert in New York was at Carnegie Hall on 20 February 2008, with works by Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert. Since his debut at Carnegie Hall on 21 January 1973 he had appeared there 81 times, and in 1983 he became only the second pianist to perform the complete cycle of Beethoven's piano sonatas at the Hall, a feat he repeated in 1993 (Artur Schnabel was the first in 1936; after Brendel, Maurizio Pollini performed the cycle in 1995/1996, and Daniel Barenboim did so in 2003).[ citation needed ]

Personal life

Brendel has been married twice. His first marriage, from 1960 to 1972, was to Iris Heymann-Gonzala, which produced a daughter, Doris, who is a progressive rock and pop rock musician. In 1975, Brendel married Irene Semler, and the couple have three children; a son, Adrian, who is a cellist, and two daughters, Katharina and Sophie. [11]

Recordings

Publications

Next to music, literature is Brendel's second life and occupation. His writings have appeared in English, German, French, Italian, Spanish, Dutch, Japanese, Korean, and other languages. For several years, he has been a contributor to The New York Review of Books . [25] His books include:

Bibliography

Awards and accolades

Brendel has been awarded honorary doctorates from universities including London (1978), Oxford (1983), Yale (1992), University College Dublin (2007), [31] McGill Montreal (2011), Cambridge (2012) and York (2018) and holds other honorary degrees from the Royal College of Music, London (1999), Boston New England Conservatory (2009), Hochschule Franz Liszt Weimar (2009) and The Juilliard School (2011). He is an honorary Fellow of Exeter College, Oxford [32] and Peterhouse, Cambridge. He has received Lifetime Achievement Awards by Edison, Midem Classical Awards, Deutscher Schallplattenpreis, Gramophone, and ECHO Klassik.

A 2012 survey of pianists by the magazine Limelight ranked Brendel as the 8th greatest pianist of all time. [33] A 2016 survey of the UK's Classic FM presenters included Brendel in its 25 greatest pianists of all time. [34] He was included in Peter Donohoe's "Fifty Great Pianists" series for BBC Radio 3, which aired in 2012. [35] [36] [37]

Related Research Articles

Edwin Fischer Swiss classical pianist and conductor

Edwin Fischer was a Swiss classical pianist and conductor. He is regarded as one of the great interpreters of J.S. Bach and (particularly) Mozart of the twentieth century.

Claudio Arrau Chilean pianist

Claudio Arrau León was a Chilean pianist known for his interpretations of a vast repertoire spanning the baroque to 20th-century composers, especially Bach, Beethoven, Schubert, Chopin, Schumann, Liszt and Brahms. He is widely considered one of the greatest pianists of the twentieth century.

Leif Ove Andsnes Norwegian pianist and chamber musician

Leif Ove Andsnes is a Norwegian pianist and chamber musician. Andsnes has made several recordings for Virgin and EMI. For his "Beethoven Journey" project, Andsnes performed and recorded all five of the composer's piano concertos with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra for Sony Classical. He is represented by IMG.

Dinu Lipatti Romanian pianist and composer (1917–1950)

Constantin "Dinu" Lipatti was a Romanian classical pianist and composer whose career was cut short by his death from causes related to Hodgkin's disease at age 33. He was elected posthumously to the Romanian Academy. He composed few works, all of which demonstrated a strong influence from Bartok.

Wilhelm Kempff german pianist and composer

Wilhelm Walter Friedrich Kempff was a German pianist and composer. Although his repertoire included Bach, Mozart, Chopin, Schumann, Liszt and Brahms, Kempff was particularly well known for his interpretations of the music of Ludwig van Beethoven and Franz Schubert, recording the complete sonatas of both composers. He is considered to have been one of the chief exponents of the Germanic tradition during the 20th century and one of the greatest pianists of all time.

Emil Grigoryevich Gilels was a Soviet pianist. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest pianists of all time.

Murray Perahia Musical artist

Murray David Perahia, KBE is an American pianist and conductor. He is widely considered one of the greatest living pianists. He was the first North American pianist to win the Leeds International Piano Competition, in 1972. Known as a leading interpreter of Bach, Handel, Scarlatti, Mozart, Beethoven, and Schumann, among other composers, Perahia has won numerous awards, including three Grammy Awards from a total of 18 nominations, and 9 Gramophone Awards in addition to its first and only "Piano Award".

Leon Fleisher American pianist and conductor

Leon Fleisher was an American classical pianist, conductor and pedagogue. He was one of the most renowned pianists and pedagogues in the world. Music correspondent Elijah Ho called him "one of the most refined and transcendent musicians the United States has ever produced".

András Schiff Musical artist

Sir András Schiff is a Hungarian-born Austro-British classical pianist and conductor, who has received numerous major awards and honours, including the Grammy Award, Gramophone Award, Mozart Medal, and Royal Academy of Music Bach Prize, and was appointed Knight Bachelor in the 2014 Queen's Birthday Honours for services to music. He is also known for his public criticism of political movements in Hungary and Austria.

Dino Ciani Italian pianist

Dino Ciani was an Italian pianist.

Rudolf Firkušný

Rudolf Firkušný was a Moravian-born, Moravian-American classical pianist.

Radu Lupu Romanian pianist

Radu Lupu is a Romanian pianist. He is widely recognized as one of the greatest living pianists. Born in Galați, Romania, Lupu began studying piano at the age of six. Two of his major piano teachers were Florica Musicescu, who was also the teacher of Dinu Lipatti, and Heinrich Neuhaus, who was also the teacher of Sviatoslav Richter and Emil Gilels. From 1966 to 1969, he won first prizes of three of the world's most prestigious piano competitions: the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition (1966), the George Enescu International Piano Competition (1967), and the Leeds International Pianoforte Competition (1969). These victories launched Lupu's international career and he has appeared with all of the major orchestras and at all of the major festivals and music capitals of the world.

Vox Records

Vox Records is a budget classical record label. The name is Latin for "voice."

Paul Lewis is an English classical pianist.

Dezső Ránki Hungarian virtuoso concert pianist

Dezső Ránki is a Hungarian virtuoso concert pianist with a broad repertoire and a significant discography of solo, duo and concerto works.

Till Fellner is an Austrian pianist.

George-Emmanuel Lazaridis is a Greek classical pianist and composer.

Martino Tirimo is a Cypriot classical pianist.

The pianist Alfred Brendel KBE was a recording artist for more than half a century, from his first record of Prokofiev's Piano Concerto No. 5 at the age of 21, to his farewell concerts in 2008, recorded in Hanover and Vienna. He has recorded with only three record companies: Vox Records, Decca and Philips. His discography contains many albums and compilations of multiple recordings from different composers featuring him as a pianist.

Hai-Kyung Suh is a South Korean classical pianist living in New York. She is known for her rich, round tone, and singing voice-like phrasing, characteristics of the Romantic style of piano playing that was predominant in the Golden Age of pianism.

References

  1. 1 2 3 Stephen Plaistow, "Brendel, Alfred", Grove Music Online, 2007. Retrieved 3 June 2007.
  2. Wizemberk had formerly been called Wiesenberg when it had been part of Austria-Hungary, but was renamed after the creation of Czechoslovakia following the breakup of the Austro-Hungarian Empire
  3. 1 2 "Alfred Brendel: Life & Career". alfredbrendel.com. Retrieved 6 January 2016.
  4. 1 2 3 Francis Merson, "Alfred Brendel: Notes on a Musical Life", LImelight , April 2016, p. 40
  5. Uncle Dave Lewis. "Liszt: Weihnachtsbaum; L'arbre de Noël; The Christmas Tree". AllMusic. Retrieved 8 November 2015.
  6. 1 2 Charlotte Higgins (21 November 2007). "Alfred Brendel, piano maestro, calls time on concert career". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 21 November 2007.
  7. "Alfred Brendel : Recordings". alfredbrendel.com. Retrieved 12 February 2017.
  8. Kinderman, William (30 November 2006). Mozart's Piano Music. Oxford University Press. ISBN   978-0-19-988016-4.
  9. Anthony Holden (8 January 2006). "Alfred Brendel, A Personal 75th Birthday Selection". The Observer. London. Retrieved 21 November 2007.
  10. Cummings, David M. (1 January 2000). International Who's Who in Music and Musicians' Directory: (in the Classical and Light Classical Fields). Psychology Press. ISBN   978-0-948875-53-3.
  11. 1 2 3 4 Nicholas Wroe (5 October 2002). "Keeper of the flame". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 21 November 2007.
  12. Bernard Holland (3 May 1981). "Alfred Brendel Has Taken the Wrong Roads to Success". The New York Times. Retrieved 12 February 2017.
  13. Thompson, Damian (28 January 2010). "Who is the greatest interpreter of Beethoven's piano music?". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 12 February 2017.
  14. "Review – Beethoven – Piano Sonatas #30–32". classical.net. Retrieved 12 February 2017.
  15. "Featured Signatories" Archived 3 September 2010 at the Wayback Machine , Campaign for a UN Parliament, 2007. Retrieved 5 January 2011.
  16. Dargis, Manohla (3 November 2011). "A Master of the Piano Whose Performances Receive No Applause". The New York Times. Retrieved 24 May 2013.
  17. The Great Pianists from Mozart to the Present, Harold C. Schonberg, Simon & Schuster, Second Edition, 1987, ISBN   0-671-63837-8
  18. Tom Service (16 June 2003). "Alfred Brendel (Snape Maltings Concert Hall, Suffolk)". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 21 November 2007.
  19. "The Sorcerer's Apprentice Alfred Brendel and Paul Lewis Playing Schubert with no Middleman". interlude.hk. 2 October 2017. Retrieved 15 October 2020.
  20. "Des œuvres de Schubert présentes depuis toujours, entretien avec Amandine Savary (Interview in French)". www.classicagenda.fr. 19 April 2017. Retrieved 15 October 2020.
  21. "Till Fellner, Pianist (article in German)". www.staatsoper-stuttgart.de. Retrieved 15 October 2020.
  22. Stephen Plaistow (15 December 2008). "'I've had a lot of fun' Alfred Brendel talks to Stephen Plaistow about inspirations, aching limbs and mastering Mozart". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 14 June 2010.
  23. "Set the Piano Stool on Fire reveals the relationship between a master and his prodigy". www.independent.co.uk. 23 October 2011. Retrieved 15 October 2020.
  24. Andrew Clements (1 July 2003). "Adrian and Alfred Brendel (Wigmore Hall, London)". The Guardian. Retrieved 24 November 2007.
  25. "Alfred Brendel".
  26. The Festschrift for Brendel contains contributions by, i.a., Imogen Cooper, Andreas Dorschel, Till Fellner, Peter Gülke, Florence Noiville and Sir Simon Rattle.
  27. "Pour le Mérite: Alfred Brendel" (PDF). orden-pourlemerite.de. 2018. Retrieved 10 May 2018.
  28. Morrison, Richard (3 October 2009). "Alfred Brendel on retiring from the concert hall and his books of poetry". The Times. London. Retrieved 23 April 2010.
  29. "Alfred Brendel (pianist)". Gramophone. Retrieved 11 April 2012.
  30. "ECHO KLASSIK Lifetime Achievement Award" . Retrieved 17 October 2016.
  31. "History of Music at UCD 1914–2019" by Wolfgang Marx, UCD School of Music
  32. "Exeter College Oxford". University of Oxford. Archived from the original on 18 June 2014. Retrieved 8 November 2015.
  33. Merson, Francis (5 July 2012). "The 10 Greatest Pianists of All Time". Limelight . Archived from the original on 18 April 2014.
  34. "The 25 greatest pianists of all time – as chosen by the presenters of Classic FM". Classic FM. Retrieved 26 March 2016.
  35. "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 22 July 2016. Retrieved 26 March 2016.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  36. "Alfred Brendel and Wilhelm Kempff – Peter Donohoe's Fifty Great Pianists". Breakfast. BBC Radio 3 . Retrieved 26 March 2016.
  37. "Fifty Great Pianists auf BBCs Radio 3 – Peter Donohoe" (in German). peter-donohoe.com. Archived from the original on 23 September 2016. Retrieved 12 February 2017.