The Atlantic

The Writer Who Makes Perfect Sense of Classical Music

Alfred Brendel’s essays about Beethoven, Schubert, and many others are deeply relevant to performers and amateur listeners alike.
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Alfred Brendel, one of the greatest pianists of the 20th century, is also a great writer. You can often detect a good-natured smirk behind his words, but right there with it is a genuinely humane seriousness. His writing, always engaging, strikes a balance between solemn reflection and undeniable wit. A perfect example of this balance can be found in his 1985 “A Mozart Player Gives Himself Advice,” in which Brendel urges the reader to reject the idea of Mozart as sugar sweet and precious. He writes that “the cute Mozart, the perfumed Mozart, the permanently ecstatic Mozart, the ‘touch-me-not’ Mozart, the sentimentally bloated Mozart must all be avoided.” Brendel doesn’t dawdle in getting to the point, and when he

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