Eine Kleine Nichtmusik

Witty and pertinent observations on matters of great significance OR Incoherent jottings on total irrelevancies OR Something else altogether OR All of the above

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Alfred Brendel, Usher Hall 21 August

This was billed as Alfred Brendel's last appearance at the Edinburgh Festival, and maybe it is. He's certainly been touring the same recital programme for the past six months or so, which has a feel of "farewell tour" about it.

So, what did he do? He started with a Haydn variation set I didn't know (not that I know much Haydn piano music), the Andante and Variations in F minor. It was all right but not, I thought, a great masterpiece. Then came a Mozart sonata, also unknown to me (K 5333/494 in F)(the strange double numbering is because he wrote the rondo first then decided to enlarge it to a sonata). This was rather a good piece, and Brendel of course is a very safe pair of hands when it comes to Mozart performance so I enjoyed it. The first half finished with Beethoven's sonata in E flat Op 27 No 1 (one of a pair whose other member is the "Moonlight"). It's the only Beethoven sonata where all the movements run into each other continuously.

I'd been wondering what the occasional funny noise was: it ssemed to be coming from the stage, and I wondered whether there was a problem with the piano (a zinging string or something). It wss only when I read the review in the Scotsman afterwards that I discovered I'd been listening to Alfred Brendel humming. He must hum very loudly: we were in the upper circle!

The second half contained a single work: Schubert's great B flat sonata, D.960. I have loved the piece since I first heard it, at the very first piano recital I attended (Artur Rubinstein). It doesn't have a single weak or uninspired movement, and neither did Brendel's performance, which did it full justice. Unsurprisingly, he was called back for encores, and eventually did three: the slow movement of Bach's Italian Concerto, a piece of Liszt I didn't recognise (I'd guessed it was Chopin actually) and a Schubert Impromptu. They showed his versatility very well, and if he didn't emulate Rubinstein's stamina (nine encores after an even longer concert, at a similar age) he gave good value. After having seen him a few times playing concertos it was good to have seen him once in a recital. I hope he enjoys his retirement if it actually happens.

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