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Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

 

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Alfred Brendel (piano)
Philips Celebrates Alfred Brendel at 75: Brendel plays Beethoven
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
CD1
Six Bagatelles, Op. 126 (1824) [20.09]
Piano Sonata No. 30 in E major, Op. 109 (1820) [18.21]
Piano Sonata No. 32 in C minor, Op. 111 (1822) [27.41]
CD2
Piano Concerto No. 4 in G major, Op. 58 (1807) [33.08] A
Piano Sonata No. 21 in C major, Op. 53 Waldstein (1803) [25.02]
Alfred Brendel (piano)
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra/Simon Rattle A
rec. Henry Wood Hall, London, England,† March 1984 (Op. 126), February 1996 (Op. 109); The Maltings, Snape, England, December 1995 (Op. 111); Great Hall, Musikverein, Vienna, Austria, December 1997 (Op. 58); Reitstadel, Neumarkt, Germany, April 1993 (Op. 53). DDD
PHILIPS† 475 7182 [66.33 + 58.13]

Philips Celebrates Alfred Brendel at 75: Brendel plays Haydn and Mozart
CD1
Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)
Piano Sonata in E minor, H.XVI:34 (c.1781-82) [14.25]
Piano Sonata in G major, H.XVI:40 (c.1782-84) [12.13]
Piano Sonata in D major, H.XVI:42 (c.1782-84) [12.41]†
Piano Sonata in E-flat major, H.XVI:52 (1794) [21.11]†
CD2
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Piano Sonata in F major, K332 (1778) [19.45]
Fantasia in D minor for solo piano, K397 (1782) [05.18]
Rondo in A minor for solo piano, K511 (1787) [10.05]
Concerto Rondo in D major for piano and orchestra, K382 (1782) [10.00] B D
Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor, K466 (1785) [30.24] C
Alfred Brendel (piano)
Academy of St. Martin in the Fields/Neville Marriner B
Scottish Chamber Orchestra/Charles Mackerras C
rec. Henry Wood Hall, London, England, March 1984 (H.XVI:34 and 42) and July 1985 (H.XVI:40 and 52); Usher Hall, Edinburgh, Scotland, March 1998 (K466); The Maltings, Snape, England, June 1999 (K511); Glyndebourne Opera House, Lewes, England, January 2000 (K332); Caird Hall, Dundee, Scotland, July 2002 (K397). Recording date and location for K382 is not provided. DDD/ADD D
PHILIPS† 475 7185 [63.01 + 75.49]

 

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:

Brendel plays Beethoven on Philips 475 7182 (2 CDs)

Brendel plays Haydn and Mozart on Philips 475 7185 (2 CDs)

Brendel plays Liszt and Schumann on Philips 475 7188 (2 CDs)

Brendel plays Schubert on Philips 475 7191 (2 CDs)

Schubert: 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 simplicity.

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 pleasure.

Michael Cookson

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