Alfred Brendel

Piano

Schubert Club Performances:

  • April 26, 1977
  • March 23, 1979
  • April 19, 1985
  • February 18, 1989
  • March 29, 2005

Alfred Brendel has been referred to as an overly intellectual musician but, if that were true, how could one explain his universal appeal – attested to by, among other phenomena, a run of Schubert Club appearances in no fewer than five seasons, nearly a record for pianists? A better description might be simply: unusually thoughtful. Brendel’s compelling, often individual interpretations have captivated audiences of all musical stripes. Born in a small Czech town, raised in Zagreb and Graz, he was mainly self taught after the age of 16. His recording career began in the 1950s, concentrating on Liszt when that composer’s popularity was at a low ebb. Liszt figured prominently in two of Brendel’s Schubert Club recitals. Here he is playing the three exquisite “Petrarch Sonnets” in London in 1986:

And from a 1992 Tokyo recital, he climbs the summit of Romantic piano music, Liszt’s Sonata in B minor – in Brendel’s hands it’s a gripping journey from start to finish:

Haydn is another composer championed by Brendel throughout his career, unsurprising given the prominence of wit and humor in the pianist’s musicianship. He has called laughter his favorite activity. This is Brendel playing Haydn’s delicious Sonata in E flat, Hob. XVI:49, followed by a performance of the dark C minor Sonata of Mozart, another of Brendel’s special composers:

Both of those sonatas look ahead to Beethoven, another of the Viennese Classical masters who formed the cornerstone of Brendel’s repertoire. And the Beethoven work for which he has acknowledged his special affinity is one that, more than any other, showcases Brendel’s sense of humor: the Diabelli Variations, which he played in his 1989 Schubert Club recital. Here’s a live performance from Japan:

The fourth Viennese master indelibly associated with Brendel is Franz Schubert. In his first Schubert Cub recital, in 1977, he played the G major Sonata; in the last, in 2005, he included the six Moments musicaux. He plays the Sonata in this German TV recital from around the time of his St. Paul debut:

and he plays the Moments musicaux in this film made even earlier:

Finally, a brief promotional film in which Brendel talks about the Diabelli Variations as well as Schubert’s “Wanderer” Fantasy, which was on his Schubert Club program in 1985:

Artist note by Richard Evidon

From the Schubert Club Archive:

Advertisement for Brendel’s 1977 concert from a local newspaper

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Brendel’s biography from his 1977 concert program

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Program from Brendel’s 1979 concert

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Review of Brendel’s 1979 performance in the Minneapolis Tribune

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Brendel featured in a local advertisement of the 1989-90 International Artist Series

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Brendel rehearsing ahead of his 1989 concert

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Program from Brendel’s 1989 concert

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Review of Brendel’s 1989 performance in the St. Paul Pioneer Press-Dispatch

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Artist Archive