Alfred brendel collected essay music

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Alfred Brendel plays Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 13 in C major, K.415 (HD)

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The Writer Who Makes Perfect Sense of Classical Music

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Alfred Brendel on Music: Collected Essays

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The Most Eloquent Musician - WSJ

The holistic approach of this book facilitates our understanding of power politics in and beyond At the age of thirty-nine, and to the supreme benefit of posterity, Brendel signed a recording deal, one of those astonishing mid—Nineteen Seventies agreements which no longer exist but without which we would know precious little about our own musical heritage. Consider the sprawling legacies of not just Brendel, but of everyone from Pierre Boulez to Claudio Arrau, Benjamin Britten to Vladimir Horowitz, Serge Celibidace to Arthur Rubinstein, all of whom come down through history only due to the strength of their legal binding.

And so, in celebration of his Eighty-Fifth Birthday, Decca has released an exquisite, scholarly, must-have boxed set of his complete — or damn near — recordings made on what was once called the Philips Label. And yet the collected box has three — three! But what does one make of his two tours through the complete Beethoven Piano Sonatas, or his dual recordings of the Late Schubert Sonatas?

Think of Glenn Gould and the two Goldberg recordings, both transformational, both important — even necessary — and radically different. Brendel attempts to find the funny, to winnow down whether there is any possibility that music, in and of itself, can actually make one laugh aloud — in the way that Beckett, Cervantes, Dali, Borges, Pynchon, Mozart and even Schoenberg can make us giggle. But from an author who opted to title his collected essays Music, Sense and Nonsense , this hardly seems out of character. Careers being made on what one refuses as much as what one pursues, in a quest to unearth Brendel the box is instrumental in demonstrating what he chose not to record.


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On one end of the spectrum, absent are the great contrapuntal keyboard masterpieces of Bach — the Goldbergs, the Great Forty- Eight of the Well-Tempered Clavier, any of the inventions — and on the other his interest in the music of the two centuries he spans stops with Berg his piano sonata and two pieces by Busoni, both written before he was born.

One wonders why this pianist, so committed to the Romantics, is less interested in more than just a quick dip into the solo keyboard works of Brahms like the epic variations on Handel and Paganini, let alone the four sonatas. And while the missing Debussy and Ravel hardly surprises from such a committed Germanophile, the lone recording of a work by Chopin speaks volumes.

In Brendel retired from public life, playing a final concert, accompanied by the Vienna Philaharmonic — and fortunately recorded for posterity in the collected box.