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Alfred Brendel , KBE (honorary) (January 5, 1931, Vízmberk, Czechoslovakia) is an Austrian pianist, poet and writer.
Alfred Brendel was born on January 5, 1931 in Vízmberk in Czechoslovakia, present Loučná nad Desnou and Czech Republic respectively, in a family not linked to music. When he was 6 years old he moved to Zagreb and later to Graz, where he lived during World War II, towards the end of which, when he was 14 years old, he was sent to Yugoslavia to dig trenches. However, he suffered a freeze and had to be taken to a hospital. Throughout his childhood, he occasionally received piano lessons, but not formally.
After the war, Brendel composed some musical works and continued playing the piano and dedicating himself to painting. However, he never received more formal piano lessons and although he attended classes with Edwin Fischer and Eduard Steuermann, he is largely self-taught.
Brendel gave his first piano recital in Graz when he was 17. He called it “The Flight in Literature for Piano”, which included leaks by Johann Sebastian Bach, Johannes Brahms and Franz Liszt, as well as some of the compositions own Brendel. In 1949 he won the fourth prize in the piano competition of Ferruccio Busoni in Bolzano (Italy) and moved to Vienna the following year. At the age of 21, he recorded his first album with the “Piano Concerto No. 5” by Sergéi Prokofiev. He made a series of recordings, including 32 sonatas for piano by Ludwig van Beethoven (one for Vox Records and two for Philips Records). He was the first interpreter to complete the recording of Beethoven’s piano solos, and he also recorded works by Franz Liszt, Brahms (including his Concerts), Robert Schumann and Franz Schubert. Unlike practically all classical pianists, he has made very few recordings of Frédéric Chopin’s works, except the Polonesas.
Brendel had recorded frequently for the Vox company, particularly his first set of Beethoven sonatas, but he obtained an important recording contract exclusively in the 1970s, without being able to perform works outside of Austria. His break came after a recital of Beethoven’s plays at Queen Elizabeth Hall in London, the day after three major record labels called his agent. Around the same time he moved to Hampstead, London, where he still resides, and since the 70s, Brendel has recorded for Philips Classics Records.
Brendel has worked with young pianists such as Paul Lewis, Till Fellner and recently with Kit Armstrong. He has performed in numerous Lieder recitals accompanying Hermann Prey, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Matthias Goerne.
In November 2007 Brendel announced his retirement after a concert on December 18, 2008 in Vienna, in which he performed Mozart’s Concerto No. 9 with the Vienna Philharmonic directed by Sir Charles Mackerras. His final concert at Carnegie Hall was on February 20, 2008, with works by Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert. Since his debut at Carnegie Hall on January 21, 1973 he performed there 81 times, and in 1983 he was the second pianist to interpret the complete cycle of Beethoven’s sonatas, which he repeated in 1993 (Artur Schnabel was the first in 1936). After Brendel, Maurizio Pollini played the cycle in 1995/1996, and Daniel Barenboim did it in 2003).
Brendel has been married twice. His first marriage, from 1960 to 1972, was with Iris Heymann-Gonzala, with whom he had a daughter named Doris. In 1975, Brendel married Irene Semler, with whom he has three children, a son, Adrian, who is a cellist, with whom he has performed and recorded records and two daughters, Katharina and Sophie. the Order of the British Empire.
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