Alfred Brendel, born January 5, 1931, in Wiesenberg, Czechoslovakia [now Loučná nad Desnou, Czech Republic], is a pianist and writer whose recordings and international concert appearances secured his reputation. He is best known for his interpretations of Ludwig van Beethoven’s music, recording several cycles of the composer’s piano sonatas and concertos.
Brendel studied the piano with Sofia Dezelic, Ludovika von Kaan, Eduard Steuermann, and Edwin Fischer. He made his debut in Graz, Austria, in 1948 and won a prize at the Concorso Busoni at Bolzano in 1949. He performed extensively throughout Austria. In 1962 he performed the complete sonatas of Beethoven in London and in 1963 made his first North American tour.
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Although known primarily for his interpretation of Beethoven’s works, he also featured in his repertoire such composers as Franz Schubert, Franz Liszt, and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Brendel was credited with almost single-handedly rescuing from oblivion the piano pieces of Schubert composed between 1822 and 1828. Known for his analytical approach to music and for his attention to ornamental accuracy, Brendel also displayed a sensitivity to tone and colour. In his collection of essays, Musical Thoughts and Afterthoughts (1976), he discussed Beethoven, Schubert, Liszt, Ferruccio Busoni, and Edwin Fischer.
Brendel retired from performing in 2008 and focused on his literary career. In 2010 he published a collection of poems, Playing the Human Game. His later writings included A Pianist’s A–Z (2013) and The Lady from Arezzo (2019). Brendel was the recipient of numerous honours, including the Japan Art Association’s Praemium Imperiale prize for music (2009).