Alfred Brendel is a legendary pianist, recognized by audiences the world over for his authentic and intellectual interpretation of whatever music he performs. He is also known as the first pianist to record the entire piano works by Beethoven. He gave his final concert in Vienna last December, retiring after a 60-year professional career, despite many people still wanting to be able to attend his concerts.
Brendel was born in Northern Moravia, now part of the Czech Republic, after the World War l. He is largely self-taught but had some piano lessons at the age of six and later when his family moved to Austria, he studied music at the Graz Conservatory.
" I have not been a child prodigy, " he says. However, his life changed when he won fourth prize in the Busoni International Competition in 1949 and moved to Vienna to start a career as a pianist. In the 1960s, he won international fame by recording Beethoven’s complete piano works.
Brendel’s repertoire is extensive ranging from Beethoven, his life work, to Haydn, Schubert, Mozart, Schumann and Schoenberg--mainly classical Germanic and Austrian works. He says, "My happiest memories are with collaborations with great orchestras and the feeling that they like to play with me...that it became a unity of what we are doing. This is some of the best things that can happen to a musician." Among many co-workers, his relationship with Sir Simon Rattle, now principal conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic, was special, resulting in many memorable performances and recordings.
Recently, Alfred Brendel performed and recorded all the Beethoven cello sonatas with his son, cellist Adrian Brendel, attracting much attention from the musical world.
While he enjoyed fame as a legendary pianist, literature has been a passion. His essays on music, including Musical Thoughts and Afterthoughts
, are highly regarded and he is also known as a unique modern poet. His first poem was inspired while he was on a plane to Japan. "When the light was shut and I was closing my eyes, one of my first poems came out, just without warning. I wrote it down in the dark." He has published several books of poetry including One Finger Too Many
in which the above-mentioned poem is included.
Brendel came to Japan for the first time in 1971 and since then, he has been there many times creating a large number of passionate followers.
After retirement, Alfred Brendel is enjoying a more relaxed lifestyle, surrounded by books and art in a spacious home in London where he has lived since 1971. He continues to help young artists by lecturing at universities and musical institutions.