Alfred Brendel’s place among the greatest musicians of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries is assured. Renowned for his masterly interpretations of the works of Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms, Schumann and Liszt, he is one of the indisputable authorities in musical life today.
During the 1960s, he became the first pianist ever to record the entire piano works of Beethoven (on the Vox label), a set which, in the opinion of one critic, still contains “some of the finest Beethoven ever recorded”. In the 1970s, Brendel returned to Beethoven with a complete cycle of the piano sonatas on the Philips label for which he has recorded exclusively since 1969. Brendel’s discography is now among the most extensive of any pianist, reflecting a repertoire of solo, chamber and orchestral works by the major composers from the central European tradition from Bach through to Schoenberg.
Among the countless prizes he has won (sometimes on more than one occasion) are the Grand Prix of the Liszt Society, the Gramophone Award, Grand Prix du Disque, the Japan Record Academy Award, the Deutscher Schallplattenpreis, the Grand Prix de l’Academie du Disque Français, the Edison Prize and the British Music Trades Association Prize to name but a few. Important musical awards include the Léonie Sonning Prize, the Siemens Prize, the Prix Venezia, and in 2009 the Praemium Imperiale.
He was made an Honorary KBE in 1989 for his “outstanding services to music in Britain”, awarded the Légion d’Honneur in 2004, received the highest rank in the Order of Merit of the German Federal Republic in 2007, and holds honorary degrees from the universities of Oxford, Yale, Exeter and Dublin.
He is a recipient of the Hans von Bülow medal of the Berlin Philharmonic and was made an Honorary Member of the Wiener Philharmoniker in 1998, an honour conferred on only two other pianists, Emil von Sauer and Wilhelm Backhaus, since this orchestra’s foundation in 1842. Alfred Brendel has begun giving illustrated lectures at musical institutions and universities around the world on musical subjects and issues that have always been central to his own insatiable interpretative quest.
His farewell concert took place with the Vienna Philharmonic on December 18, 2008, which was recently voted one of the 100 greatest cultural moments of the last ten years by The Daily Telegraph.