Notes and Editorial Reviews
Alfred Brendel's Beethoven has continued to intrigue, impress, and delight record collectors ever since his early Vox recordings of the complete music for piano solo. Each time he has revisited these works, whether in recordings or in concert, a lively debate has ensued about the respective merits of early, middle, or recent Brendel. Unlike many, I'm struck by the consistency of his approach, most obvious in the sound he creates, which is effortlessly transparent, lucid, and orchestral in its attention to inflecting inner voices. His playing is always thoughtful and never exaggerated, with a profound understanding of the overall arch of each work.
The opening movement of Brendel's "Moonlight" is an extraordinary
study of the tension between stillness and motion. Its concluding Presto agitato is brilliantly controlled with superb definition of rhythms and clarity of voices, all part of the Brendel trademark. Similarly controlled is the j opening of the "Pathétique." Brendel's weighting of the chords is the embodiment of Beethoven's j marking, "grave." His subtle rubato creates a wonderfully unsettling ebb and flow leading to the cadenzalike bar that precedes the Allegro molto. The quiet nobility of the Andante cantabile is underlined by the pianist's control of the moving 16th notes both rhythmically and dynamically. The "Appassionata" also benefits from Brendel's musical and technical discipline, which respects form and harmonic tension.
In the late 70s, I had the pleasure of attending a master class that Brendel gave at the Jerusalem Music Center. Among the works taught were Beethoven's intimate "Les Adieux" Sonata. Working with a very young, highly talented student, Brendel stressed the careful inflection of the inner voie- i es, calling the student's 10 fingers "his orchestra." "How do we balance the alto voice?" he queried. His performance here is a lesson in the skillful and musical balancing of voices within the musical fabric. The transition to the second movement, one of the loveliest moments in the Beethoven sonatas, is intimate, effortless, and pure magic.
These recordings, in excellent digital sound from the mid 90s, deserve their release in the late, lamented Philips "50 Best Recordings."
-- Michael Fine, FANFARE [3/2002]
reviewing these performances previously reissued as Philips 464680
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