Alfred Brendel is a pianist, essayist and poet. A self-taught musician, he is especially well-known for his Beethoven repertoire. His originality and subtlety have made him one of the 20th century's greatest pianists.
Alfred Brendel is originally from Moravia in the Czech Republic (former Czechoslovakia). He was born on 5 January 1931 in Wiesenberg. His family is made up of Austrians, Germans, Italians and Czechs. This same cultural diversity can be seen in the path his life has taken. He spent his childhood travelling from town to town across Yugoslavia and Austria. He began taking piano lessons at the age of six in Zaghreb, then continued in Graz. His teachers were Ludovika von Kaan and the organist Artur Michl. Apart from a series of masterclasses he took, Alfred Brendel did not have any further formal education. This choice left him free to develop a distinctive, personal style. He gave his first recital in 1948 in Graz and, a year later, won the grand prize in the Busoni Competition. As a result, he embarked on a tour with the world's finest orchestras. He played in Europe and Latin America under the baton of acclaimed conductors such as Karajan, Colin Davis and Eugene Ormandy. His recordings opened the door to leading international concert halls. He toured the United States and took part in the Salzburg Festival every year.
Alfred Brendel excels in the performance of works from every period, but is particularly outstanding in the repertoire by Beethoven, Schubert and Liszt. He takes a keen interest in the visual arts and especially objects stemming from a grotesque or fantastic imagination. His taste for derision can be felt in his musical interpretation, subtly bringing out the touches of humour present in the music of Haydn and Beethoven. Another of Alfred Brendel's interests is literature. He has published two collections of musings on music during his career. Since retiring from the concert platform, Alfred Brendel has devoted himself entirely to writing.
He describes himself as a self-taught musician, thriving on the influence of such great pianists as Artur Schnabel, Alfred Cortot, Wilhelm Kempff and Edwin Fischer. His performance of Beethoven's complete piano sonatas in 1982-83 confirmed his status as one of the 20th century's greatest pianists. Listeners are struck by his great sincerity and desire to always dig deeper for the finer points of his musical interpretation. Alfred Brendel has received many prizes and awards in his lifetime. To name but a few: the Leonie Sonning Prize, the Ernst von Siemens-Musikpreis, the Beethoven-Ring of the Vienna Music University and the Prix Venezia: Premio Artur Rubinstein.
Six landmark dates in the life of Alfred Brendel
1949: Won a prize in the Busoni Competition
1965: Grand Prix de l’Académie Charles Cros for his recordings of Beethoven's complete piano works
1970: Signed an exclusive recording contract with Philips
1976: Publication of his book, Musical Thoughts and Afterthoughts by Doubleday
1982: Played the complete Beethoven cycle in 11 cities and 77 concerts
2016: Lifetime Achievement Award