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Farewell to Alfred Brendel

We've spent the last three evenings at the Usher Hall for Edinburgh Festival concerts. Tuesday's had Brahms' Requiem as its second half, a work I first sang 45 years ago, and which I know and love from various perspectives, having sung it first as soprano, then as alto and once, to help out in rehearsal, even as "tenor". I also played the oboe line long ago. The Monteverdi Choir were absolutely wonderful, powerful despite their modest numbers, and a younger, more distinctive sound than a large chorus can produce.

However, Wednesday's event was a tribute to age and experience. After the Scottish Chamber Orchestra had romped through Mozart's evergreen 40th symphony, Alfred Brendel played Mozart's Piano Concerto 24. This was a masterly, moving performance, especially the wonderful larghetto which he made sound disarmingly simple. Brendel, of course, is a mere 77 years but is anticipating retirement just after his extended series of farewell concerts. Conductor Charles Mackerras, at nearly 83, made Brendel look young, but you don't need anything like the fine motor control (nor such feats of memorisation of scores) to go on conducting in old age as to continue playing at Brendel's level. Anyway, this was Mackerras' 56th Festival, and at the end of his standing ovation, Director Jonathan Mills announced Mackerras' appointment as its Honorary President - a post vacant since the death of Yehudi Menuhin in 1999.

And on Thursday, Brendel made his final farewell recital to the Festival audience. His programme returned to his classical repertoire with masterly performances of works by Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert - the same composers as we heard him play here a year ago, when he described them modestly as "not a terribly daring" selection. This time, we all clapped until our hands were sore, and he rewarded us with no less than three encores. The standing ovation was prolonged and emotional. Nobody present will quickly forget the 21st August, 2008.


This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on August 22, 2008 6:34 PM.

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