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[Alfred Brendel]

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[ Biography | Concerts | Selected Recordings | Recent Releases | Brendel's Beethoven | Essays | Interviews ]


[Selected Recordings]

Following are a few special discs made by Brendel through the years which one should not miss. Audio samples are available for each entry. Clicking on the little thumbnail album images below will link you to the individual disc pages, if available, in the Philips Netherlands web site for label/catalogue numbers and such. No attempt has been made in the selection to be orderly, consistent, coherent, or least of all objective. :-)

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[RealAudio Logo]
The recorded samples accompanying each album in this page have been converted to RealAudio format to enable real-time listening. RealAudio Player 3.0 is required to access the audio files; a minimum 28.8 Kbps connection is recommended.

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Beethoven:

Eroica Variations Op. 35, Für Elise WoO 59, Bagatelles Op. 126, & Ecossaises WoO 83

[ RealAudio sample from the Finale of the Eroica Variations. ]
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One of Brendel's finest performances on disc is this one of the Eroica Variations, accompanied by some shorter works for piano which many students past and present may recognize (including the ubiquitous "Für Elise", which has -- through no fault of its own -- never held quite the same charm after its infamous use in a saccharine-laden McDonald's commercial a few years back with some blasted jingle writer's lyrics thrown in for extra measure to make the disaster truly complete). Though The Penguin Guide to Compact Discs bemoans the fact that the pieces are "not as flamboyant as with some" and "may lack some of the sheer bravura of his own early playing", nonetheless Brendel's balanced blend of thoughtfulness and feeling makes for an absolutely compelling journey; listen especially to his shapely phrasing and sense of form in the variations.

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Beethoven:

Sonatas No. 29 "Hammerklavier" Op. 106 & No. 26 "Das Lebewohl"/"Les Adieux" Op. 81a

[ RealAudio sample from the first movement of the "Hammerklavier" Sonata. ]
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Brendel, though not easy to please when it comes to his own performances, approved the release of this live performance of the "Hammerklavier" Sonata from a concert given in Vienna, commenting in a Gramophone interview, "There I do recognize myself!" It is coupled with a spirited version of the "Das Lebewohl" Sonata, also commonly known as "Les Adieux". The disc comes from Brendel's latest digital cycle of the Beethoven sonatas.

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Beethoven:

33 Variations in C on a Waltz by Anton Diabelli Op. 120

[ RealAudio sample from the waltz Theme of the Diabelli Variations. ]
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Another excellent Beethoven recording by Brendel. Though Brendel himself favors his live recording of the variations made in London nearly 20 years ago (again, as revealed in his Gramophone interview), this studio version is just as satisfying and the usual benefits studio efforts offer over live events are manifest. Besides, the live version is now only available as part of a multi-disc set, "The Art of Alfred Brendel".

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Schubert/Mozart:

Trout Quintet D. 667/Piano Quartet K. 478

[ RealAudio sample from the fourth movement of the "Trout" Quintet. ]
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Brendel is joined by Thomas Zehetmair (violin), Tabea Zimmerman (viola), Richard Duven (cello), and Peter Riegelbauer (double-bass) in this pairing of Schubert's popular chamber piece and Mozart's G minor Piano Quartet, K. 478. The Philips recording is well done and the players provide an especially sparkling performance of the "Trout" Quintet.

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Beethoven:

Sonatas No. 8 "Pathétique" Op. 13, No. 9 Op. 14/1, No. 10 Op. 14/2, No. 11 Op. 22

[ RealAudio sample from the first movement of the "Pathétique" Sonata. ]
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All the sonatas on this disc are up to Brendel's usual high standards, but the "Pathétique" is especially fine. In this new cycle of the Beethoven sonatas he seems to be playing with less reserve than his last recorded cycle (from the 1970s, also available on the Philips label, but only as a boxed set of 10 CDs or alternatively as two sets of "highlight" CDs in the budget Philips Duo line: "Favourite Piano Sonatas" and "The Late Piano Sonatas") and the results are both spirited and contemplative at the same time. In addition, the new digital recording, though spotty in some other releases in the current cycle, sounds quite well this time round.

If nothing else, the cover alone holds a good deal of interest. Brendel's rather ambiguous pose can be read on a number of levels, some verging on the irreverent (and some others just plain falling over the verge). He could be: Preparing to play the piano (nah, too far-fetched...); scrubbing for open-heart surgery (hopefully not his own!); challenging you to a fight; about to let out one honker of a sneeze; imagining all the money he's making from this lovely album; practicing the Vulcan nerve grip; preparing to strangle the photographer; showing us just how good Palmolive is for your hands (Madge was right!); chanting, "Eeny, meeny, miney, moe!"; auditioning as the fabled Fourth Stooge; trying for a walk-on Woody Allen look-alike part in the movies...say, he does kinda look like Woody Allen! Or Michael Caine...

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Thumbnail images courtesy Philips Classics (Netherlands)

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[ ALFRED BRENDEL ]
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Changes last made on: Wednesday, 11 December 1996
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