Alfred Brendel on Radio 3’s Music Matters

A new series of Music Matters has started on BBC Radio 3 this weekend with an extended 45 minute interview with pianist Alfred Brendel. 

It’s a fascinating insight into Brendel’s life, with a window on his mischievous and often unorthodox sense of humour, with valuable insights into the role of the performer. 

I particularly enjoyed his view on how the performer aspires to articulate the emotions of the composer through the music he or she is playing. A performance for Brendel wasn’t primarily about self-expression, even if that’s a by-product. 

The interview also throws light on the renaissance of different musical genres and how audience interest in particular composers differs across Europe. From a UK perspective it hadn’t really dawned on me that Russian pianists would naturally gravitate to Russian composers and how in particular, Rachmaninov is seen as the pinnacle of pianistic achievement. I also had no idea that Brendel had played Schoenberg’s fiendish piano concerto an astonishing 68 times.

The retired pianist (‘my hearing has collapsed’ he says at one point in the interview) has a precision to his thinking that makes this interview a fascinating listen. There aren’t enough places in the radio schedule with extended interviews of this kind, and I hope we can hear more of them.

Alfred Brendel’s Music Matters interview with Tom Service will be on Monday 21 September 2015 at 10.00pm on BBC Radio 3. It’s also available on the Radio 3 website for at least a year, or to keep as a ‘podcast‘.

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