Alfred Brendel

Brendel plays Schubert: Complete Impromptus, Moments Musicaux

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Brendel plays Schubert: Complete Impromptus, Moments Musicaux Review

by James Leonard

Even at the peak of his early super-virtuoso period, Austrian pianist Alfred Brendel had a soft spot for Schubert. While his Pictures at the Exhibition was breathtaking and his Beethoven sonatas were awe-inspiring, it was his Schubert that let listeners know Brendel had a heart. Recorded in Vienna for Vox in 1967, these performances of both groups of Impromptus, the four great D. 899 set and the four even greater D. 935 set, plus the last four of the Six Moments Musicaux, D. 780, are Brendel at his most persuasively poetic. This is not to say that virtuosity is absent from his playing. The clarity of his right-hand arabesques, the precision of his left-hand octaves, and the ideal balance between his hands amply demonstrate Brendel's keyboard prowess. But it is the soulfulness of Brendel's playing that is most impressive, the way he shapes a phrase, finesses a dynamic, or inflects a rhythm so that the maximum expressive meaning of the music is made manifest. While some listeners might still favor the venerable Schnabel and Fischer recordings or the later Perahia or Schiff recordings, for fans of the music and of the pianist, this disc deserves to be heard. Vox's stereo sound is a bit hard and a little close, but clear and honest.

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