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Brendel's Choice

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J. Haydn, W. A. Mozart, Piano Sonatas,
Alfred Brendel
Just in time for his recital in Washinton, courtesy of WPAS, Philips issued a series of CDs of Alfred Brendel in a series entitled “Artist’s Choice.” I don’t know who else is included: for now it seems solely the prerogative of Brendel, who also celebrates his 75th birthday this year. “Artist’s Choice” is like the “Signum” series that ECM put out for its jazz artists, in that the artist gets to pick his favorite recordings and have them issued on disc. While ECM’s jazz musicians might have looked out for particular pieces or collaborations, filling one CD with the best of them, Brendel gets to look back at half a century of recording activity and a huge catalogue of recorded, re-recorded, and re-re-recorded material. His pleasantly candid liner notes (written this January) lack all false modesty but exude confidence and the appropriate humility of one of the greatest pianists alive. He muses about particularly successful recordings, touches he likes from earlier attempts, where he finds a later recording better, or how he’s recently discovered a live recording he particularly cherishes.

The two-disc sets published so far include one with Liszt (Piano Sonata, Totentanz, Vallee d'Obermann, and the second Piano Concerto) and Schumann (Kreisleriana, Fantasie in C), one with the five last Schumannbert sonatas and one with Beethoven (4th Piano Concerto with Rattle/WPh, “Waldstein” Sonata, Bagatelles, Sonatas opp. 109, 111). And, most interesting with regards to the upcoming concert, one with Haydn and Mozart. It isn’t surprising that Haydn made it onto Brendel’s list… his recordings of some of the sonatas are not only the most enjoyable Haydn but also some of the best Brendel I have heard on record. For the first disc of this compilation he chooses sonatas Hob. XVI:34, 40, 42, and 52 – also known as Nos. 53, 54, 56, and 62. The third movement (Vivace molto, innocentemente) of H16-34 is one of the most enjoyable, ‘funnest’, and infectious of its kind. The Presto from H16-40 a wild ride, and Brendel is lightly forgiven for a little humming in the first movement of that G major sonata. H16-42 is the one he will play in his recital at the Kennedy Center, along with H16-50, Schubert’s G-major sonata D894, Mozart’s Fantasia in c-minor and – also on this CD – the K. 511 Rondo in A minor.

The Mozart is represented with the Sonata K. 332 in F major, the Fantsia K. 397 in D minor, the Rondo in A minor as well as the Marriner/St.Martin-supported Concert Rondo in D major (K. 382) and the Piano Concerto no. 20 in D minor (K. 466 - with Mackerras and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra). Except the Concert Rondo (from his integral Mozart cycle with Marriner in 1976), the recordings are all from his recent batch - the same line that the disc Charles reviewed is from. It's musical, it's no-nonsense, it's always delight- and wonderful, it's solid and reliable. Not as rmantically indulgent as Schiff’s, not quite the no-nonsense approach of De Larrocha, not with the lithe and emotional supremacy that Uchida brings to it. But after fifty years of playing those works, you won’t find a more unapologetic, self-assured way of playing Mozart.

Philips 208947 57185
Released January 10, 2006

1 comment:

jfl said...

of course. thanks for catching that!