Aldeburgh Festival: Alfred Brendel

Aldeburgh Festival: Alfred Brendel, Piano Recital, Snape Maltings, June 9

Aldeburgh Festival: Alfred Brendel, Piano Recital, Snape Maltings, June 9

The four heavyweights of the classical and early romantic eras came together for this eagerly awaited recital; after many years at the top of the pianistic tree Brendel plays little in public nowadays.

He opened with Haydn's C minor sonata, a tense and dramatic work requiring some dexterity and flashes of humour that Brendel naturally provided. Yet Haydn is so much more convincing elsewhere.

Beethoven's wonderful A flat sonata, his penultimate, unsurprisingly proved the peak of the evening. Brendel's technical mastery, his experience and searching intelligence make him an ideal interpreter of late Beethoven and the calm authority of the opening bars, the gently rippling arpeggios and the soft, stratospheric octaves taking us to the brink of the development. The subtle key meanderings were quite magical, every change of direction, every new vista recognized but with the secure pace and timing of an experienced guide. The descents into the minor keys for the arioso held the audience spellbound and the plaintive tune wound its way round the hall. The mighty fugal finale was superbly played and given a rapturous ovation.

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Two of Schubert's impromptus followed the interval - Brendel effectively caught the glimpses of sun and shade in the F minor and the 'Rosamunde' work was full of warm charm. After the relaxation of the Schubert Mozart's C minor sonata had a strong sense of drive and purpose, the unexpected modulations and soft chords in the slow movement particularly catching the ear.

For the Beethoven alone this was worth the journey.

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Gareth Jones

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