Alfred Brendel is one of the most important performers of the twentieth century. Among his piano teachers were Edwin Fischer, Paul Baumgartner, and Eduard Steuermann. He has had an extraordinary international career, focusing for 60 years on interpreting the music of central European composers from Bach to Schoenberg as well as many works by Franz Liszt. He was the first pianist to record the complete piano music of Ludwig van Beethoven, and he was largely responsible for Schubert’s piano sonatas and Schoenberg’s Piano Concerto having become a part of the standard piano repertoire. He has given concerts regularly at musical centres and festivals around the world with leading orchestras and conductors, and his extensive discography makes him one of today’s most distinguished artists. He brought his career as a concert soloist to a close on 18 December 2008 with the Vienna Philharmonic, and the British newspaper Daily Telegraph included the concert among the 100 most important cultural events of the past decade. Alfred Brendel’s focus and exceptional breadth and depth place him alongside such legendary interpreters of the Classical repertoire as Arthur Schnabel and Edwin Fischer. At the same time, he has been an important link in the great lineage passed on directly from Beethoven (Ludwig van Beethoven – Carl Czerny – Franz Liszt – Martin Krause – Edwin Fischer – Alfred Brendel). In 2016 the Decca label issued a complete set of all of Brendel’s published recordings, numbering an incredible 114 CDs.
Alfred Brendel has received honorary doctorates from many universities including Oxford and Yale, and in 1989 he was made an Honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire. In 1992 the Berlin Philharmonic awarded him the Hans von Bülow Medal, and the Vienna Philharmonic made him an honorary member in December 1998. In 2001 he received a MIDEM Lifetime Achievement Award for the classical music category in Cannes, an Edison Award in the Netherlands, and the prestigious “Beethoven Ring” from the University of Music and the Performing Arts in Vienna. He has been honoured with the Léonie Sonning Prize, the Robert Schumann Prize, the prize for classical music performers at the South Bank Show Awards (2002), the Ernst von Siemens Prize (2004), the Prix Venezia: Premio Artur Rubinstein (2007), the Karajan Prize (2008), the Praemium Imperiale from Tokyo, and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the music journal Gramophone (2010).
Besides music, Alfred Brendel also has a keen interest in literature. He has published two books of essays – Musical Thoughts and Afterthoughts and Music Sounded Out. For the latter he won a Royal Philharmonic Society Music Award in 1990. 2015 saw the publication of a collection of his complete essays and lectures titled Music, Sense and Nonsense. He has also published three volumes of poetry in German, followed by another collection of poems titled Spiegelbild und schwarzer Spuk and many poems translated into French, Italian, and Dutch. Faber has published two volumes of his poetry with the titles One Finger too Many and Cursing Bagels. There is a widely available bilingual edition of his collected poetry (published by Phaidon Press in 2010 with the title Playing the Human Game). A book of interviews with Martin Meyer appeared in 2001; the title of the 2002 English version is The Veil of Order. Alfred Brendel continues to lecture, recite poetry, and teach master classes at the festivals in Salzburg and Verbier, at Vienna’s Musikverein and Konzerthaus, at London’s Wigmore Hall, and at the universities and concert halls of Germany’s and Europe’s most important cities. He teaches at the Cité de la Musique in Paris and as a guest professor at Cambridge. In North America he teaches at the Julliard School, New York University, Berkeley, McGill University in Montreal, Princeton, and Yale.