Notes and Editorial Reviews
This is no conventionally languishing or conciliatory reading, but one where grace and sensitivity are invariably complemented by strength. Brendel's naturalness, his refusal to force issues, creates its own distinctive, very personal ambience.
Two years ago Philips issued a superb 25-CD salute to Alfred Brendel (2/96), one of the most profoundly speculative musicians of our time. Now, in a strikingly grave and subdued pendant, Brendel revisits two dearly cherished romantic masterpieces, making you aware of how the act of re-creation can be an ineffable act involving an ever closer engagement with the composer’s score and spirit; never a question of vieux chapeau. His sudden surge in the Concerto’s principal theme at
once declares that this is to be no conventionally languishing or conciliatory reading, but one where grace and sensitivity are invariably complemented by strength. Listen to him at 3'07'' and you will notice that by scrupulously observing the left-hand accents he brings an unusual sense of the composer’s animato, a small detail but one that erases all awareness of marking time. There is great delicacy in the dreaming central episode in A flat and if his “Intermezzo” is grazioso it is never sentimental. Only in the finale where Brendel, superbly partnered by Sanderling and the Philharmonia, so surprisingly opts for introspection rather than exuberance, is too much ‘edge’ or excitement removed. Lovers of an altogether more incandescent experience will look elsewhere, though they should in no sense underestimate a performance of a special quality and lucidity.
Again, Brendel’s Fantasie will hardly appeal to those in search of youthful aplomb or, indeed, of music which Schumann himself described as “more impassioned than anything I have ever written”. From Brendel the churning opening is too ‘contained’ to be like some feverish rush of blood, and his sudden explosion of energy at 4'17'' is an isolated moment in a performance where his reflexes seem, in truth, a little tired, pressed, as it were, into duty. Other performances, including Brendel’s earlier disc for Philips (in a five-CD set), have greater vitality and impetus, more response to Schumann’s sempre energico in the central march, more sense, too, of wonder in its central etwas langsamer. Yet there are many rich and durable compensations. In both the Concerto and the Fantasie Brendel’s naturalness, his refusal to force issues, creates its own distinctive, very personal ambience. The recordings are excellent.
Bryce Morrison, ClassicsToday.com
Works on This Recording
Concerto for Piano in A minor, Op. 54 by Robert Schumann
Alfred Brendel (Piano)
Written: 1841-1845; Germany
Piano Concerto in A minor, Op.54: 1. Allegro affettuoso
Piano Concerto in A minor, Op.54: 2. Intermezzo (Andantino grazioso)
Piano Concerto in A minor, Op.54: 3. Allegro vivace
Fantasie in C, Op.17: 1. Durchaus fantastisch und leidenschaftlich vorzutragen - Im Legenden-Ton
Fantasie in C, Op.17: 2. Mäßig. Durchaus energisch - Etwas langsamer - Vielbewegter
Fantasie in C, Op.17: 3. Langsam getragen. Durchweg leise zu halten - Etwas bewegter
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