Alfred Brendel KBE (born 5 January 1931) is an Austrian pianist, born in Czechoslovakia and a resident of the United Kingdom. He is also a poet and author of the surreal.
Brendel was born in Wiesenberg, Czechoslovakia, now Loučná nad Desnou, Czech Republic, to a non-musical family. They moved to Zagreb when Brendel was six, and later to Graz, where they lived during World War II, towards the end of which the 14-year old Brendel was sent to Yugoslavia to dig trenches. However, he developed frostbite and was taken to the hospital. Throughout his childhood, Brendel began piano lessons when he was six with Sofija Deželić, and at 14 he studied piano with Ludovica von Kaan and composition in the Graz Conservatory for the next two years, but otherwise had little formal music education.
After the war, Brendel composed music, as well as continuing to play the piano and to paint. However, he never had more formal piano lessons and although he attended masterclasses with Edwin Fischer and Eduard Steuermann, he was largely self-taught.
Brendel gave his first public recital in Graz at the age of 17. He called it "The Fugue In Piano Literature", and as well as fugal works by Johann Sebastian Bach, Johannes Brahms and Franz Liszt, it included some of Brendel's own compositions. However, he gave up composing shortly after this to concentrate on the piano. In 1949 he won 4th prize in the Ferruccio Busoni Piano Competition in Bolzano, Italy and moved to Vienna the following year. At the age of 21, he made his first record, Sergei Prokofiev's Piano Concerto No. 5. He went on to make a string of other records, including four complete sets of the Ludwig van Beethoven piano sonatas (one on Vox Records and two on Philips Records). He was the first performer to record the complete solo piano works of Beethoven. He has also recorded works by Liszt, Brahms (including Brahms' concertos), Robert Schumann and Franz Schubert. Unlike virtually all classical pianists, he has recorded very little by Frédéric Chopin other than the polonaises. An important collection of Alfred Brendel is the complete Mozart piano concertos recorded with Sir Neville Marriner and the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, which is included in the Phillips 180 CD complete Mozart Edition.
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