Alfred Brendel, Piano – Netherlands Chamber Orchestra, Szymon Goldberg – Radio Nederland – 1974 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –
A concert by The Netherlands Chamber Orchestra this week. Led by its founder Szymon Goldberg and featuring Alfred Brendel in the Mozart K.459 Piano Concerto and beginning with Paul Hindemith’s Der Dämon op. 28.
Alfred Brendel frequently performed the music of Haydn, Beethoven, Schubert and Mozart. He has played relatively few 20th century works but has performed Arnold Schoenberg’s Piano Concerto. Toward the end of his concert career he stopped playing some physically demanding pieces, such as the Hammerklavier Sonata of Beethoven, due to arthritis.
Although Brendel remained popular and praised throughout his career, he often had a reputation of interpretative coldness. He was lauded by music critic Michael Steinberg as “the new Schnabel”, whereas NY Times critic Harold C. Schonberg noted that some critics and specialists accused the pianist of “pedanticism”. Brendel’s playing is sometimes described as being “cerebral”, and he has said that he believes the primary job of the pianist is to respect the composer’s wishes without showing off himself, or adding his own spin on the music: “I am responsible to the composer, and particularly to the piece”. Brendel cites, in addition to his mentor and teacher Edwin Fischer, pianists Alfred Cortot, Wilhelm Kempff, and the conductors Bruno Walter and Wilhelm Furtwängler as particular influences on his musical development.
Brendel has worked with younger pianists such as Paul Lewis, Amandine Savary, Till Fellner and, most recently, Kit Armstrong. He has also performed in concert and recorded with his son Adrian and has appeared in many Lieder recitals with Hermann Prey, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Matthias Goerne.
In November 2007 Brendel announced that he would retire from the concert platform after his concert of 18 December 2008 in Vienna, which featured him as soloist in Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 9 in E-flat; the orchestra (the Vienna Philharmonic) was conducted by Sir Charles Mackerras. His final concert in New York was at Carnegie Hall on 20 February 2008, with works by Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert. Since his debut at Carnegie Hall on 21 January 1973 he had appeared there 81 times, and in 1983 he became only the second pianist to perform the complete cycle of Beethoven’s piano sonatas at the Hall, a feat he repeated in 1993 (Artur Schnabel was the first in 1936; after Brendel, Maurizio Pollini performed the cycle in 1995/1996, and Daniel Barenboim did so in 2003).
Born in Włocławek, Congress Poland, Szymon Goldberg played the violin as a child growing up in Warsaw. His first teacher was Henryk Czaplinski, a pupil of the great Czech violinist Otakar Ševčík; his second was Mieczysław Michałowicz, a pupil of Leopold Auer. In 1917, at age eight, Goldberg moved to Berlin to study the violin with the legendary pedagogue Carl Flesch. He was also a student of Josef Wolfsthal.
After a recital in Warsaw in 1921, and a debut with the Berlin Philharmonic in 1924 in which he played three concertos, he was engaged as concert-master of the Dresden Philharmonic from 1925 to 1929. In 1929 he was offered the position of concertmaster of the Berlin Philharmonic by its principal conductor, Wilhelm Furtwängler. He accepted the position, serving from 1930 to 1934. During these years, he also performed in a string trio with Paul Hindemith on viola and Emanuel Feuermann on cello, and also led a string quartet of Berlin Philharmonic members.
The rise of the Third Reich forced Goldberg to leave the orchestra in 1934, despite Furtwängler’s attempts to safeguard the Jewish members of the orchestra. Thereafter, he toured Europe with the pianist Lili Kraus. He made his American debut in New York in 1938 at Carnegie Hall. While in the former Netherlands East Indies he formed the Goldberg Quartet, together with Robert Pikler on viola, Louis Mojzer on cello and Eugenie Emerson, piano. Pikler and MOJZER were Hungarians and Emerson was American. This Piano Quartet toured the major cities in Java, before the Japanese invasion and occupation. Goldberg’s first wife was a skilled artist and sculptor. She was interned in the Tjihapit Women’s Camp in Bandung, together with Mojzer’s Family. While Goldberg and Kraus were on a tour of Asia, they and their families were interned in Java by the Japanese from 1942 to 1945.
He taught at Yale University from 1978 to 1982, the Juilliard School in New York City from 1978 to 1989 the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia from 1980 to 1981, and the Manhattan School of Music in New York starting in 1981. From 1990 until his death, he conducted the New Japan Philharmonic in Tokyo.
Enjoy the concert – a bit short, but a good one nonetheless.
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