Alfred Brendel, St George's, Bristol

St George's, Bristol

For over half a century, Alfred Brendel has been a keyboard icon. At the end of 2008, he retires from the concert platform after a punishing schedule of performances, of which this recital at St George's is the first. At 76, Brendel looks no older than he did at 66, and is anyway immortalised in his recordings. Thus, for his devoted followers, this seems not so much an occasion to pay their final homage than the chance to feel again the incredible aura created when he pays his own tribute to the great Viennese composers who are the cornerstone of classical music.

Brendel's programme of Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert was a suitably definitive survey of the repertoire and a reminder that this pianist has arguably done more than anyone of his generation to popularise the music, while making his listeners aware of its intellectual complexity and richness. Haydn's Andante con Variazione in F minor, Hob XVII/6 begins with one of the simplest but most poignant of melodies; Brendel's understated approach revealed the degree to which Haydn was inspired by Mozart in the twists and turns of chromatic colour. In the increasingly complex elaborations, Brendel kept an astute balance between lyrical line and decorative tracery, but it was in the extraordinary final variation that Haydn's intense passion was given full rein.

Appropriately, Mozart's Sonata in F, K533, which followed, is notable for a contrapuntal knottiness showing the reciprocal influence of Haydn. Brendel's delivery of the rippling passagework of the Allegro was precise but more mechanical, and it was in the first delightfully meandering innocence of the Rondo and then its more extrovert cadenza that its charm emerged most convincingly. Brendel then brought a more mellow tone to Beethoven's Sonata in E flat, Op 27 No 1, subtitled Quasi una Fantasia, yet revelled in the quirky rhythmic patterns that defy expectation.

Schubert's Sonata in B flat major, D960, has been a signature work for Brendel: his interpretation here bore all the hallmark clarity and rigour, with moments of visionary grace. The St George's audience, usually ready to stamp their feet in noisy approval, were relatively restrained, reflecting both the monumentality of the Schubert and a sense of nostalgia at the beginning of the end of an era.

· At City Halls, Glasgow, tonight. Box office: 0141-343 8000. Tour details at


Rian Evans

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Alfred Brendel, Chipping Camden music festival

Chipping Camden music festival

Alan Rusbridger

25, Apr, 2008 @11:07 PM

Alfred Brendel, Royal Festival Hall, London

Royal Festival Hall, London

Erica Jeal

24, Jun, 2005 @11:06 PM

Alfred Brendel, Snape Maltings Concert Hall, Suffolk

Snape Maltings Concert Hall, Suffolk

Tom Service

16, Jun, 2003 @1:26 AM

Alfred Brendel, Barbican, London

Barbican, London

Erica Jeal

25, Jun, 2004 @9:34 AM

Alfred Brendel, Royal Festival Hall, London

Royal Festival Hall, London

Martin Kettle

18, Jun, 2007 @10:47 PM

Leader: In praise of ... Alfred Brendel
Leader: Alfred Brendel may well be the last of his kind. These days the conventional route to pianistic stardom is through competitions


21, Nov, 2007 @12:18 AM

Adrian and Alfred Brendel, Wigmore Hall, London

Wigmore Hall, London

Andrew Clements

01, Jul, 2003 @1:36 AM

Alfred Brendel: The Farewell Concerts | CD review
Alfred Brendel's last live recordings show him to be one of the supreme pianists of our time, writes Nicholas Kenyon

Nicholas Kenyon

15, Nov, 2009 @12:07 AM

Classical CDs: Alfred Brendel | Vivaldi | Donizetti

Classical CDs: Alfred Brendel | Vivaldi | Donizetti

Anthony Holden

08, Jan, 2006 @12:05 AM

Alfred Brendel, piano maestro, calls time on concert career
Alfred Brendel, arguably Britain's greatest living pianist and adored by classical music lovers for his rigorous yet witty and emotionally complex playing, is to retire from performance

Charlotte Higgins, arts correspondent

21, Nov, 2007 @11:41 AM