Customer Review

1 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Goodbye, Farewell, Amen !!!, 3 Mar. 2014
This review is from: Alfred Brendel: The Farewell Concerts (Audio CD)
Aghast I wasn't when Brendel the Cogitator finally retired. It was time to go. Who could keep abreast of his late recordings? Not me! Worse still, on the evidence of Beethoven: Complete Works for Piano & Cello, he fuelled Will Smith's nepotistic tendencies: `After Earth' ensued (and in passing, one can only laugh at John Kwok's claims that this crabbed effort can be ranked with Richter / Rostropovich). As Brendel rode off into the sunset, he unleashed a Parthian Shot: this series of Farewell Concerts. Led by various Sergeants-at-Arms, the Amazonian Five Star Brigade rejoiced: here was another instalment of greatness. Will we encounter his like again?

As per usual, Brendel operates in a restricted dynamic sphere. Not once does he terrorise the Steinway. Sturm und Drang is verboten. Everything in moderation, please, noisy bits included!

Brendel's performance of K 271 with the Vienna Philharmonic & Mackerras is stock-standard stuff. Did Einstein really acclaim this work as Mozart's Eroica? Not so, says Uncle Alfred whose opening bars of the finale are cadaverous (I almost yelled "Bring out your dead!" in response). These twenty nine seconds are a blight on his discography. If I had been asked beforehand, "Which Mozart sonata will feature in these farewell concerts?" I would have nominated K 533. Emotively, it's the coolest of the stable. Brendel doodles his way through it as if calculating Pi. It's Ok. Legendary it ain't.

Thank god Brendel has finally finished with D 960! Hasn't it suffered enough? Open a bottle of Vin Ordinaire in tribute and toast Bacchus! Kempff demonstrated that this sonata can warp time itself - in the right hands. Devoid of numinosity and Innigkeit, this is formulaic proficiency, not revelation. Just listen to the development section in the first movement:

6'37"ff can only be labelled as geriatric.

7'05"ff zippo angst.

And the recapitulation at 10'05" is prosaic.

One of Brendel's incontestably great recordings - and what a rarity it is - is his Impromptus from 1987. This 2008 recording of the G Flat Major is a fall from grace. Whatever tension and power he once had in his armoury have been eroded away by senescence: it's no wonder the applause is less than spontaneous. The same phenomenon is evident in his re-recording of Haydn's F Minor Variations: compared with his gutsy performance from the `80s, his tone is weedier. On the evidence of its climax - how underplayed it is - time has wearied him and the years are condemnatory. Much the same could be said of the Bach transcription: the recording from the 1970s has far more vitality to its name.

Beethoven's Piano Sonata in E Flat, opus 31 / 1 is again played daintily at mezzo-forte. Rumbustiousness is absent.

Brendel's vocalise throughout is worrisome. On the evidence of his whimpering, was it a good idea to sup at Punjab Pete's Atomic Curry House in the hours before these concerts?

Thoreau tells us that most men live lives of quiet desperation. This is true. If so, why linger? Why bore the pants off everyone, the Devil included? Why go out like this - akin to a spinster-librarian who has lived out her life in the Dewey System?

Verily, the Ministry of Truth at the Gramophone has much to answer for.
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Showing 1-7 of 7 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 24 Jan 2015 12:15:39 GMT
If Alfred Brendel is so terrible then why purchase these recordings? Mr O'Hanlon comes over as making little short of a bitter hatchet job on not only one of the greatest pianists to grace the concert platform but also one of the rare examples of an artist who has retired with total dignity which is more than can be said for most of his peer group. It took me many years to thoroughly appreciate what Mr Brendel was about and, whilst I differ with some of his viewpoints, my admiration for him is total. May his retirement remain a happy one and that he be spared any further unpleasant and completely unconstructive outbursts like the one from Mr O'Hanlon.

In reply to an earlier post on 24 Jan 2015 17:00:51 GMT
David - greetings. Are you suggesting that we thoughtlessly adore everything that he recorded? Who else has this warrant?

And what do you make of this K 271 and its opening bars specifically please?

Best wishes, B

In reply to an earlier post on 24 Jan 2015 18:00:11 GMT
No, we should not adore everything and I made this point abundantly clear in my comments but one hopes for some generosity towards a most decent man who has delighted audiences for a lifetime and made such a huge contribution to classical piano playing. I shall refrain from listing many names who should have retired long before they did and have no intention of satisfying your ego by commenting on specific sections of Mr Brendel's performance.

Posted on 25 Jan 2015 09:34:51 GMT
David, fair enough. One of the precepts of the Australian Knappertsbusch Association is this: no mullets. One hopes that in his retirement, Brendel can finally part with this stylistic horror that traumatised so many people over time.

Best wishes, B.

In reply to an earlier post on 25 Jan 2015 11:49:03 GMT
The only stylistic horrors here are your unbalanced views and certainly not Mr Brendel's eloquent piano playing. Like every other great artist he's had ups and downs for which praise and criticism have rightly been forthcoming but your rant against his farewell recording is beyond belief. The only thing that will traumatise so many people who have enjoyed hearing Mr Brendel over time is your bitterness which does absolutely nothing to advance the cause of classical music.

In reply to an earlier post on 4 May 2015 18:13:48 BDT
No more salvos during the past three months? Is this a truce or just a ceasefire?

Pity, it was getting quite exciting. Not much else happening in my neck of the woods.

In reply to an earlier post on 4 May 2015 19:23:21 BDT
Mate, Uncle Alfred has not annoyed me of late so it's a ceasefire of sorts!

Best wishes, B
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Location: Melbourne, Australia

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