Alfred Brendel celebrated his seventieth birthday on 5
January 2006 and has been an exclusive Philips artist for the
past thirty-five years. To mark the occasion a set of four specially-compiled
double CD sets and a DVD are being released by Philips as part
of their Artistís Choice series:
plays Beethoven on Philips 475 7182 (2 CDs)
plays Haydn and Mozart on Philips 475 7185 (2 CDs)
plays Liszt and Schumann on Philips 475 7188 (2 CDs)
plays Schubert on Philips 475 7191 (2 CDs)
The Final Three Piano Sonatas, made in 1988 at the Middle Temple,
London on Philips 070 1139 3 (DVD)
These recordings have been personally chosen by Brendel
represent the composers with which he has been associated during
a professional career spanning fifty-five years. The selections
include both live and studio recordings.
Born in Wiesenberg, Moravia, in the present-day Czech Republic
on 5 January 1931, Brendel has throughout his long and distinguished
career performed a wide variety of repertory ranging from Bach
to Schoenberg. Some people will be surprised to learn that his
first recording, made in 1952, was of Prokofievís Fifth Piano
Concerto. During the 1960s he created history by being the first
pianist to record all of Beethovenís piano works for Vox. This
established his reputation as one of the finest Beethoven interpreters.
Indeed, it is with the Viennese classics that Brendel is so
closely identified, especially the music of Haydn, Mozart, Schubert
and Beethoven. These composers have been central to his repertory
for many years and it is to these composers that he has returned
so frequently. Schumann, Liszt and Brahms are equally important
to him, and are well-represented in the Brendel discography.
These are the first two double sets in this series. The
first is an all Beethoven programme consisting of the Bagatelles,
three piano sonatas and the Piano Concerto No. 4.
Beethoven is the composer that Brendel has performed most
often in the recording studio. He has recorded two complete
cycles of the sonatas for Philips. From his second cycle
we hear opp. 53, 109 and 111 from 1993, 1996 and 1995 respectively.
Here Brendel confirms his credentials as an impressive Beethovenian.
I find his playing consistently satisfying, marked with sensitivity
and a selfless dedication. The Six Bagatelles, recorded
in 1984, were Beethovenís last solo piano work to bear an opus
number. The playing is outstanding with a natural unaffected
A highly celebrated musical partnership for Brendel was
his collaboration with the VPO and Rattle in the Beethoven piano
concertos in the late 1990s. This was Brendelís third complete
cycle and for the present collection he has chosen his 1997
account of the Piano Concerto No. 4 which is regarded by many
judges as the finest of the five. One cannot fail to be impressed
by Brendelís assurance and artistry. The tenderness and gentle
serenity in the andante con moto movement is outstanding.
The second set on Philips 475-7185 comprises works from
Haydn and Mozart. The four Haydn sonatas are taken from the
pioneering set that Brendel recorded in the 1980s. They remain
a reference set for this repertory. Haydn composed for the genre over a period of some
thirty-five years, from 1760 to about 1795. There are some fifty
sonatas. Brendel proves a thoughtful and intuitive interpreter,
offering performances of real distinction. His playing comes
across as spontaneous, consistently imaginative and colourful.
Haydnís piano scores are performed surprisingly infrequently
and the examples here provide endless rewards for the listener.
Brendelís most recent recording activity has focused on
Mozart. He has re-recorded six of Mozart concertos with Mozart
specialist Sir Charles Mackerras and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra.
Brendel knocks the cobwebs off the D minor Concerto with
a most refreshing and sparkling performance. There is a special
poetic feeling to Brendelís playing particularly apparent in
the central movement romance.
The Rondo in D major, K382 was made sometime in the 1970s.
Brendel with the Academy of St Martin in the Fields under Neville
Marriner make an engaging combination. Brendel, engagingly combined
with Marriner and his orchestra, brings an impressive understanding
to this appealing score. In the solo piano scores Brendel once
again displays spellbinding authority.
The Philips annotation is adequate;
more celebratory than informative. All the recordings have the
advantage of excellent sound quality. Brendelís remarkable blend
of intelligence, insight and artistry is of a quality that few
pianists can equal. These performances continue to provide considerable
(Haydn & Mozart)