Alfred Brendel

Brendel on Music

When I was actively studying the violin, it occurred to me that if I understood the structure of a musical composition, it would perhaps make it easier to memorize it. I found that for simpler pieces if the structure was, say, Melody A, Melody B, Development section, Melody A, Conclusion, that would help me some in committing the piece to memory.

At a concert a few years back I listened to the mastery of Alfred Brendel as he was performing one of my favorite sonatas by Schubert. And I noticed how huge and how complex the piece was, and how wonderfully Mr. Brendel played it. Related to that thought was the question: I wonder how he goes about memorizing such a complex, long sonata. And then it happened: Suddenly, without warning, the music stopped. Brendel mumbled something from the stage and attempted to restart his playing, but he could not get by the cursed place. He left the stage and returned a couple of minutes later to perform the rest of the selections on the concert program. I wondered at that time if this great pianist would soon stop giving concerts, and he did. It is, however, our great fortune that he decided to continue to appear in public and to present lectures on music.

I read that Mr. Brendel said: “One thought that occurred to me when I stopped was that in a few months’ time I would be forgotten” My sense is that it is not possible to quickly forget an interpreter who has brought to the public such wonderful, meaningful music over the years ranging from Mozart to Schoenberg.

On this DVD, issued May 31, 2011, we get three lectures:

  • 1. Does classical music have to be entirely serious
  • 2. Musical Characters
  • 3. Light and shade of interpretation

This material is certainly scholarly, but not all that difficult to follow if you have the interest and you want to learn more. For me, the most meaningful was the second lecture, where I learned more about what Brendel means when he talks about the “character” of a composition. It is great that he does not solely discuss musical compositions, but he frequently also turns to the keyboard to illustrate his points with actual musical examples.

I liked this DVD and I’d recommend it to anyone who has some basic familiarity with music.

Here is Brendel in the incomparably beautiful Schubert Op. 90/3:

And here is again in Schubert’s Impromptu Op 142 No 2 A – flat major: (Observe the amazing piannissimos!)

If you’d like to purchase this DVD at Amazon, please click on the image below to complete your purchase:


Tags: Alfred Brendel, pianist, three lectures on music, DVD

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