Another interesting article regarding the consummate pianist of our time...
From The Telegraph:
The pianist who hates being heard
For the Proms, Alfred Brendel is breaking his rule against live broadcasts, he tells Geoffrey Norris
When Alfred Brendel steps out on to the Albert Hall platform to play Beethoven's Emperor Concerto in two weeks' time, he will be lifting a self-imposed embargo on live broadcasting. The use of such words as "farewell" and "retiring" in the build-up to this concert has led to the notion that he is abandoning public performances. "Not so," says the great Austrian pianist, with that characteristic twinkle in his eye. "Some people have misunderstood it, reading the headlines carelessly. I have already planned my next two seasons."
The point is simply that this will be the last time that a Brendel performance will be heard in a simultaneous relay. "I stopped live broadcasting two years ago," he says, "but it was not trumpeted out. Microphones make me nervous. I have had microphones on stage at the Festival Hall for many years during my recitals, but the concerts were recorded, not broadcast live. There are quite a few of my colleagues who never do these things, even younger ones, so it's a matter of feeling that I have now reached a certain age and I can do without the radio."
Brendel, who celebrated his 73rd birthday earlier this year, has an unassailable reputation as one of the finest exponents of the Central European repertoire, stretching from Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven, through Schubert to Brahms and Liszt and on to Schoenberg, whose piano concerto he has championed on three continents.
Does he now fear making a mistake that might he heard by millions? "The danger is there anyway, with or without microphones, but maybe it is aggravated because I know a lot of people are listening, and I don't want to take these risks," he says. "Some of the best performances I heard in my younger years were certainly not the cleanest ones, but nowadays so many people listen to records, which have been cleaned up, that there may be a different perception of what an artist is allowed to do. I've never claimed to be a perfectionist – though some people call me that – but of course I try to play as accurately as possible."
Brendel's concerns in his performance have always gone way beyond playing the right notes, with a strong strand of intellectual sinew. However, he cautions, "I hope you do not see me as an intellectual who approaches the music from that standpoint, then tries to add something in terms of feeling. Intellect and emotion have always been equally important in tackling music. The intellect helps you filter the emotions," he says, "to see that you use first-hand emotions and not third-hand ones."
With a broad base of aesthetic interests ranging through music, literature, painting and poetry, he has always been a scrutiniser of what makes the composer, the performer and the music tick, expounding his ideas not only through his playing but also in such stimulating and highly readable collections of essays as Musical Thoughts and Afterthoughts (1976), Music Sounded Out (1990), Alfred Brendel on Music (2001) and, most recently, the extended interviews published in the UK as The Veil of Order (2002).
Few performers have written so illuminatingly about the elusive art of interpretation and the forces that drive a musician to play as he does.
"I do not belong," he says, "to the family that either consciously or inadvertently puts the interpreter in the foreground, with the composer as a kind of accessory. I never forget that the composer was there first. Out of the composer comes the work, which later leads its own life, to a degree. But it presents its own rules, which the performer has to try to understand. This is sometimes a slow process – it takes a lot of time, a lot of patience, but one hopes that the piece gives one the signals and information as to what the performer should do. The performer should not be the governess telling the composer what the piece should have been like, or how it should have been composed."
Brendel has always shunned exaggeration, though, in terms of his platform manner, he recalls with amusement his youthful years, when on stage he was "very flamboyant without noticing it. I pulled even worse grimaces than I do now. Completely unconsciously, I was doing big movements of the arms that counteracted the music. I realised this when I first saw myself on television.
It was a real shock. It was counterproductive for the listener, who wanted to hear what I was actually doing musically. I hope it is more coordinated now."
In case one should go away with the idea that all is deadly serious in the Brendel household, he lists laughing as one of his favourite pastimes, collects grotesque artefacts and primitive masks, and has a love of both kitsch and the absurd. An element of the latter comes through in his poems, three of which are going to be performed in settings by Sir Harrison Birtwistle at the same Prom in which Brendel is playing the Beethoven concerto. Some of them, published in the two collections One Finger Too Many (1998) and Cursing Bagels (2004), have obviously been inspired by his experiences in the concert hall – The Coughers of Cologne, for instance. Others are sardonic, droll, anarchic, a "mixture of sense and nonsense", as Brendel says. "Actually, that reflects my view of the world. To be able to endure its absurdity, it is better to find some humorous components and, to a degree, laugh about it."