Adrian and Alfred Brendel, Wigmore Hall, London

Wigmore Hall, London

If your father is a celebrated pianist, then the last instrument you should take up professionally is the piano. There are exceptions (Peter Serkin, son of the great Rudolf, is the most successful), but Adrian Brendel recognised the inescapable logic of it and became a cellist. Now in his late 20s, Brendel junior is carving out a considerable reputation as a chamber-music player, to which his quiet, unobtrusive musicality and slightly veiled tone seem ideally suited.

He has started appearing on the international concert circuit with his father, too, first in a programme of Mozart piano quartets, and now in the Beethoven cello sonatas, which father and son are performing together in concert and recording over the next year. Their first instalment at the Wigmore Hall included three of the sonatas, together with Beethoven's modest set of variations on Papageno's Ein Madchen oder Weibchen from Mozart's The Magic Flute.

It all took a while to catch fire, to emerge as a true partnership. In public, at least, Alfred has never played much chamber music, nor seemed a particularly instinctive interpreter, capable of the give-and-take on which the best performances depend. His duo with his son is not a partnership that communicates much sense of this; their music-making never gets taken in a new direction by sudden inspiration, or caught up in the spontaneity of the moment. Instead, their performances come across as carefully studied and intensely serious.

That was certainly the feeling in the first half, which matched the early G minor Sonata Op 5 No 2 with the first of the pair of sonatas Op 102 in C. It was all very well mannered, just occasionally revelatory: the way Alfred launched the G minor, with a stillness that pre-echoed the slow movement of Beethoven's Fourth Piano Concerto, was one such telling moment, and so, too, were his forays into the otherworldliness of the late C major Sonata. It wasn't until they reached the A major Sonata Op 69 at the end of the recital that Adrian, more communicative in the way he moulded the unaccompanied opening theme with nicely weighted eloquence, found the right degree of obsessiveness for the Scherzo, and discharged all the tension in the finale. That was the finished article: the other interpretations seemed more like works in progress.


Andrew Clements

The GuardianTramp

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