F. Liszt, Années de Pèlerinage, Alfred Brendel
Schubert Sonatas - DVD
Schubert Sonatas - double CD
Liszt - Bolet
Liszt - Berman
Whereas his DVD with the three late Schubert sonatas offers greatly enjoyable performances, the bonus of a DVD is rather limited here: to see Brendel alone in the Great Hall of the Middle Temple in London, alone, in tails, may offer a handful of fascinating shots of his hands running up and down the keyboard or punctuating a chord with particular vigor. But ultimately I’d be more likely to turn to a performance of my choice on an audio recording (including the recent issue of live recordings of Brendel’s in the last five sonatas) than be perched in front of the TV for my Schubert. It is in the commentary of the Liszt where the DVD format’s real edge over the CD format comes in. While I might still turn to Lazaar Berman or perhaps Jorge Bolet for these works on record, it is precisely that informed, brief, yet thorough introduction before each work that makes this issue special, that adds much to your understanding not only of the piece itself but also interpretive choices: Brendel’s and those of other pianists. With him you follow in the footsteps of Liszt, himself following in the footsteps of George Sand’s Lettres d'un voyageur, Lord Byron’s Harold, Senancour’s Obermann, Madame de Staël, Goethe, and Montesquieu. For those who have their DVD player coupled with a good sound system it would have been a good idea to be able to skip the introductions so as to have the performance double as a ‘pure’ recording. Others might well be tempted to skip the performances to just get the uninterrupted talk. Either way, it is an intriguing offering from Universal, and Brendel -- who, now 75 years old, was 55 at the time of the making -- already looked like a dignified, wise old man, and Athenian Owl.