Brendel makes connections, gently pointing at an observation, which requires listening as involved as Brendels confidential sharing of them he is not going to underline particular features. The echoes of fugue from the Hammerklavier sonata and the lyric equanimity of Op.111s Arietta were sounded with all the integrity of a musician who has this repertoire as part of his very being. Variation 8 having heralded the profoundness of Grave e maestoso (14), Andante (20) and the Bachian Fughetta (24), these similarly motioned the great slow triptych of variations 29-31 (Adagio-Andante-Largo), the central one always singing, the ensuing one very expressive as Beethoven directs. There was no lack of wit either variation 13 proving an exemplar of humour in music, especially when delivered by a musician noted for his literary imagination; off-the-cuff interjection at its finest. The final variation is not a transfigured summation; rather its an innocent, nostalgic, minuet that is the perfect foil for earlier depths. When as modestly introduced as here, one reflects not only on the diversity and ambiguities of Beethovens conception but on the work as a whole from a new angle. Thats Brendels gift: to change perspectives and make one think.
I need no converting to Haydn and its always a pleasure to hear Brendel play him; he speaks the language - serious, witty, capricious, and deeply expressive. He made the most of Haydns economical, concentrated two-movement G minor sonata its formal manners and tangential annotation combining both musical deliberation and autonomy.
Brendel played both halves of the first movement twice (i.e. he also repeated the development and recapitulation) very important to fully grasp Haydns subtleties. Brendel was similarly generous in the Mozart yet when the second half of K310s opening movement came again, I found it unnecessary; everything had been said. To my mind, Mozarts bigger sonata had less to declare than the preceding Haydn. Perhaps Brendel was too rigorously intellectual, too plain speaking (which somewhat compromised the improvisatory aspects of the Fantasia) - Mozart was here presented as writing in parenthesis and being, literally, repetitive. The finale was the most successful nervously intense, the restrained dynamics all the more telling for inward digression than external bravura.
- This recital is broadcast on Wednesday, 6 June, by BBC Radio 3 beginning at 7.30. You may listen to it on-line at www.bbc.co.uk
- 3 June, in the Queen Elizabeth Hall, Alfred Brendel and Matthias Goerne perform Lieder by Beethoven and Schubert
- Box Office: 020 7960 4201
- Book Online: www.rfh.org.uk
- Geoff Allen reviews the Goerne & Brendel recital of 3rd June 2001
- Ying Chang reviews the 70th Birthday concert with the Philharmonia on 30th June 2001