Brendel gives the most satisfying recordings of Schubert I have ever heard. His sound is warm, mics. are placed closely, and the piano sound is full of body. Brendel colours his Schubert in the warmest and most colourful of ways, and I cannot express his playing in any other way, except to say that he is one of the most 'human' pianists, and his playing speaks to me note by note. Highly recommended.
Before beginning I should say I was one of those who clicked the `helpful' button for the Santa Fe Listener's review. I often head straight for his reviews when choosing whether or not to buy, not despite but rather because I am aware we have very different tastes. Anyway I bought this set after reading it and have thoroughly enjoyed every moment of it, perhaps partly for the reasons SFL dislikes it.
I agree entirely that there is `a purity and honesty' to Brendel's musicianship, but not that he lacks wit. For me Brendel epitomises the balancing of heart and mind so necessary in the Viennese Classics, even though I have reservations about his later Mozart recordings, which I find too self-consciously a case of the Maestro committing his last thoughts to tape (or whatever they use these days). There is a refinement and subtlety about Brendel's approach to Schubert. His account of the impromptus is among the finest I have heard and I love the way he not only points the detail in the sonatas, but is always aware of the broader architecture of the work. Unlike SFL, I find these performances full of surprise and gusto and, if not exuberance, then probity (both intellectual and emotional) and reflective wisdom. Brendel is not a heart-on-sleeve musician, neither is he lacking in feeling or expressive warmth.
The benchmark for the last three sonatas is Perahia, of those readily available. Lupu is an acquired taste; I like him when I'm in the mood; others might not. My own favourites among Schubertians are the much underrated and sadly neglected Walter Klien and Martino Tirimo; I wish EMI would re-release the latter's extraordinary and groundbreaking cycle of the complete sonatas, the most complete of any. As a point of interest, it is Tirimo's edition of the scores that most pianists use these days, including Perahia.
Those reading these reviews who know Brendel will know whether they like him or not - this is Brendel at his finest; and (with all due respect to the SFL) those who don't know Brendel's work should have no hesitation in starting here.
I am a fan of Alfred Brendel anyway, and with Schubert he really scores - perhaps even more than he does in Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven. The core repertoire here is of course the piano sonatas, where his accounts will stand comparison with any. For me, though, the real highlight is the impromptus, which are simply sublime.
Very highly recommended, even if you have other accounts.
A matchless performance by a Master of the piano. Brendel actually lives near us in Dorset and we feel honored to have been to one of his final concerts a few years ago. This recording is from his peak period and couldn't be bettered in terms of sensitivity, brilliant but un-showy virtuosity, and benefiting from Alfred Brendel's special experience of this wonderful music over his playing lifetime. I cannot recommend it higher.
The previous reviewer seems to dislike all of the great Schubertians--Lupu,Schiff,and Brendel--very odd!If you have any liking for Schubert,you'll probably know that Brendel is second to none in this repertoire,and this is a great buy.I am familiar with all of the above artists,Kempff,etc,and believe Brendel to be at least as good,and if I'm honest,the best.Some think him overly intellectual--I say listen to his Mozart concerto no.9,compare it to any other reading(slow movt),AND YOU WILL FIND THIS TO BE THE MOST MOVING INTERPRETATION ON RECORD.Analytical,yes,a master interpreter has to be--but not the scrutinising nitpicker some would have you believe. Buy this,never regret the action.
Yesterday a Council of Trent occurred within the Australian Knappertsbusch Association where one of our most prominent members argued for plausibility as a key determinant in the scheme of things. For instance, my friend declared that Edwin Fischer’s Mozart is implausible – presumably on the basis of its hyper-romanticism – whereas Murray Perahia in the same repertoire makes the grade. I accept the strength of the argument, even if I don’t ascribe to it. I’m more interested in transportation – of where a performance will take one, preferably into new states of being or remembrances of things past - than stylistic fidelity. One of my favourite words is ‘protean’ and in such a discussion, it’s applicable. The plenitude of Mozart is mirrored in the waves of Teahupo’o; if Jamie O’Brien wants to set fire to himself (literally) and surf these monsters then why not. Much the same could be said of Robbie Maddison who tackles these waves on his floatable motorbike (you’ll find them both on YouTube).
However plausible Brendel might be per se, he offers bugger-all transportation in the likes of Mozart, Beethoven and his ghastly Liszt, Mussorgsky and Schumann (the latter might appeal to Vestal Virgins but not to me). I concede the substance of his Haydn. But here in his digital cycle of Schubert from 1987 – 1988, he was touched by the Hand of God. For once, something more than intellect is evident: he plays with passion, fire and desperation. Such be the excellence of his Impromptus, they’ve ruined the wider field for me. The gods of the Underworld are evoked in D 784 and D 959 / 2. The first movement of D 960 might lack the exposition repeat and Innigkeit but it’s amazing how successful Brendel is in heroicising it.
This endeavour may not displace Kempff in this domain but it’s more than a supplement and preferable in a number of instances (WK is feeble in D 959 and his D 894 / 4 lacks Brendel’s anguish in the self-contained episode in the middle of the movement). Ever so magisterially, Brendel ’87 trumps Schiff (the latter being a Little Miss Muffett affair on a Bösendorfer). The recording is somewhat hard in certain instances (say, D 960) but liveable all the same.