Alfred Brendel studied piano, composition and conducting in Zagreb and Graz, and completed his piano studies with Edwin Fischer, Paul Baumgartner, and Edward Steuermann. His international career took off after winning a prize at the 1949 Busoni Competition and he now performs regularly at all the world's major musical centres and festivals.
He was the first pianist to record Beethoven's complete piano works, and figured importantly in establishing Schubert's piano sonatas, and Schoenberg's Piano Concerto in the concert repertoire. Brendel's affinity with Schubert's deeply emotional music does not preclude a sense of humour. In a questionnaire he mentions "laughing" as his favourite occupation. Fittingly, his 1984 Darwin Lecture at Cambridge University dealt with the subject "Does classical music have to be entirely serious?".
Between 1992 and 1996 Alfred Brendel performed what will be his last complete Beethoven Sonatas series at venues across Europe and the USA. In recognition of his London cycle he was awarded the 1995 Evening Standard Classical Music Award for the Outstanding Performance of the year, and the complete set of Philips recordings was awarded the Preis de Deutschen Schallplattenkritick 1997.
In 1998 Alfred Brendel celebrated the 50th anniversary of his professional debut with special events including performances of Winterreise with Matthias Goerne at the Berlin, Belfast and Edinburgh Festivals, the completion of a Beethoven concerto cycle in Vienna with the Wiener Philharmoniker and Sir Simon Rattle, further Beethoven Concerto cycles in Munich with Sir Colin Davis, and at the Cheltenham Festival with the Sinfonia Varsovia, as well as many recitals throughout Europe and the United States. Engagements in 1999 included a European tour with the Alban Berg Quartet,a special seven event residency at New York's Carnegie Hall, more lieder recitals with Matthias Goerne, and a recital tour of Japan.
This season's engagements include tours and recording of 4 more Mozart Concerti with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and Sir Charles Mackerras. He also has Beethoven Concerti cycles with the Zurich Tonhalle Orchester and David Zinman, the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Ozawa, and at the Salzburg Festival with the Vienna Philharmonic and Sir Simon Rattle. In celebration of his 70th Birthday in 2001 there will be special residencies in London, Paris, Vienna, Tokyo, Köln, Amsterdam, Brussels, and Frankfurt.
Alfred Brendel records exclusively for Philips Classics, In 1996 Philips released a box set entitled "The Art of Alfred Brendel" featuring a selection of recordings from throughout his career. Releases since then have included new recordings of Beethoven's Bagatelle, the Schumann Fantasy and Piano Concerto, the latter with Kurt Sanderling and The Philharmonia. Last year saw the release of a new recording of the Beethoven Piano Concertos with Sir Simon Rattle and the Vienna Philharmonic, and a Mozart Concerto disc with Sir Charles Mackerras and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra. The Beethoven concerti were awarded a "Diapason d'Or" while the Mozart disc was awarded "Choc de 1'Année" by Le Monde de la Musique. He also features strongly in Philips "Great Pianists of the 20th Century" series, with 4 volumes of recordings, including many live performances issued for the first time. Future releases include a live recording of Schubert sonatas, a series of recordings featuring Mozart's late piano sonatas and two further discs of Mozart Concerti with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and Sir Charles Mackerras.
Besides music, literature has remained Alfred Brendel's foremost interest and second occupation. He has published two books, Musical Thoughts and Afterthoughts and Music Sounded Out, the latter of which was awarded the 1990 Royal Philharmonic Society Music Award for writing. A new collection of his essays, Alfred Brendel on Music, which includes some previously unpublished articles, was published in January 2001 to mark his 70th Birthday. He has published three collections of absurd and humorous German prose poems entitled Fingerzeig, Störendes Lachen wahrend des Jaworts and Kleine Teufel. An English translation of some of these prose poems, entitled One Finger Too Many was published in October 1998.
He has received honorary degrees from many universities including Oxford and Yale and was awarded an honorary KBE in 1989. In December 1998 he was granted Honorary Membership of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra.
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