ALFRED BRENDEL is recognized by audiences the world over for his legendary ability to communicate the emotional and intellectual depths of whatever music he performs. A supreme master of his art, his accomplishments as an interpreter of the great composers have earned him a place among the world's most revered musicians. Brendel's 2006/07 season includes orchestral concerts and solo recitals throughout Europe, as well as his annual North American tour featuring solo recitals in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Vancouver, among other cities, as well as performances of Mozart's Piano Concerto in G major, K. 453, with the Chicago Symphony and with the Boston Symphony, James Levine conducting. In some cities and universities he is also presented in readings from his several volumes of poetry. Brendel marked the 250th Mozart anniversary January 27, 2006 with a special performance of Mozart's final Piano Concerto, K. 595, with the Berlin Philharmonic and Simon Rattle at Carnegie Hall, after which they also performed the work with the Philadelphia Orchestra.
Brendel has performed with virtually all leading orchestras and conductors. He has appeared in the major cultural centers of Europe and the Far East, and his annual tours of North America have taken him from coast to coast. He is an annual visitor to Carnegie Hall, where in 1983 he became the first pianist since the legendary Artur Schnabel to play all 32 Beethoven sonatas. At Carnegie Hall in 1999, he appeared six times in just over three weeks to delight audiences with recitals, chamber music, lieder with baritone Matthias Goerne, poetry reading, and a Mozart concerto with James Levine and the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra. Brendel's performance at Carnegie Hall the year before - on April 26, 1998 - marked the exact anniversary of his first public recital 50 years ago at the Kammermusiksaal in Graz, Austria. The same series of celebratory events took place later that year at the Lucerne Festival.
Brendel is one of the most prolific recording artists of all time, and for the past 30 years has recorded exclusively for Philips Classics. He is the first pianist to have recorded all of Beethoven's piano compositions and he has also recorded the complete Mozart Piano Concertos. An extensive discography includes The Art of Alfred Brendel, a deluxe limited-edition collection of his comprehensive and varied repertoire. His recent releases include a live recording of Schubert sonatas; the five Beethoven Piano Concertos with Simon Rattle and the Vienna Philharmonic (the fourth time Brendel has committed these works to disc); Mozart concertos with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and Charles Mackerras; works by Haydn, Schubert, and Liszt recorded live in Salzburg; and the first four discs of an ongoing series of Mozart sonata recordings. Also recently released is a recording of the complete Beethoven sonatas for piano and cello with his son, Adrian Brendel. He has won many prizes for his recordings, notably the Grand Prix du Disque, the Japan Record Academy Award, Gramophone's Critics' Choice, the Edison Prize, and the Grand Prix de l'Académie du Disque Français.
Brendel is well versed in the fields of literature, language, architecture, and films. In addition to his latest books, Alfred Brendel on Music and Ausgerechnet Ich (Me of All People), he has published two collections of articles, lectures, and essays. He is a frequent contributor to The New York Review of Books, having written articles on Mozart, Liszt, and Schoenberg. His volumes of poetry include One Finger Too Many, published in the United States by Random House, and he is the subject of the BBC documentary Alfred Brendel - Man and Mask.
Born in Austria, Alfred Brendel spent his childhood traveling throughout Yugoslavia and Austria. His father, an architectural engineer, businessman, and cinema director, also ran a resort hotel on the Adriatic. The younger Brendel began piano lessons at the age of six but, owing to the family's continuous travel, had to give up one piano teacher after another. In his teens, he attended the Graz Conservatory, where he studied piano, composition, and conducting. He also showed talent as a painter and, when he made his recital debut at the age of 17, an art gallery near the concert hall was showing a one-man exhibition of his watercolors.
He discontinued formal piano studies soon after, preferring to attend occasional master classes including those given by the famed pianist Edwin Fischer. To this day Brendel regards his untraditional musical background as something of an advantage. "Many times a teacher can be too influential," he says. "Being self-taught, I learned to distrust anything I hadn't figured out myself." Although Brendel's artistic interests as a young man did not focus on music alone, his winning the Busoni Piano Competition in Italy launched his career as a performing musician. He quickly established a reputation of unusual integrity and insight into the music of Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schumann, and Schubert, as well as the works of Liszt and several 20th century composers.
Alfred Brendel is the recipient of honorary doctorates from Oxford, London, Sussex, and Yale universities. He is only the third pianist in history to be named an honorary member of the Vienna Philharmonic, a distinction he shares with his illustrious predecessors, Emil von Sauer and Wilhelm Backhaus. He has been awarded the Leonie Sonning Prize, the Furtwängler Prize for Musical Interpretation, London's South Bank Award, the Robert Schumann Prize presented in Zwickau, Schumann's birthplace, and, most recently, the Ernst von Siemens Prize. In 1989 he was appointed an honorary Knight Commander of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II for "Outstanding Services to Music in Britain," where he has made his home since 1972.