Happy Birthday Alfred Brendel, Maurizio Pollini, and Arturo Benedetti Michangeli!
Take note, musical parents: January 5 seems to be a good day for the birth of prolific pianists! Today is the birthday of three: Alfred Brendel, Maurizio Pollini, and Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli.
Alfred Brendel (1931) is an Austrian pianist, poet, artist, and author who is known for his thoughtful interpretations of classical German composers, such as Beethoven, Mozart, and Schubert.
He is especially associated with being able to bring out elements of humor in their compositions, and has previously given lectures pondering the question, "Does classicial music have to be entirely serious?"
Brendel and his family lived in Graz, Austria during WWII and at the age of 14, Brendel was sent to dig trenches in Yugoslavia. Brendel developed frostbite, however, and was taken to the hospital. For the next two years, he studied piano and composition in the Graz Conservatory with Ludovica von Kaan. Other than his brief time at the Conservatory, however, Brendel is largely self-taught.
Brendel's first public recital took place when he was 17, and he made his first record when he was 20, in 1951. Brendel is most closely associated with the works of Mozart and Beethoven. In 2009, Brendel was featured in the German-Austrian documentary Pianomania, about a Steinway & Sons piano tuner.
Brendel retired as a concert pianist following his December 18, 2008 concert in Vienna. Since his debut at the Carnegie Hall on January 21, 1973 he has appeared there 81 times. In 1983 he became the second pianist to perform the complete cycle of Beethoven's piano sonatas at Carnegie Hall, a feat which he repeated in 1993. Today, Alfred Brendel turns 81.
Maurizio Pollini (1942) is an Italian pianist who is celebrated for his impressive classical repertoire and his exceptional technique. In addition to his performances of classical composers like Bach, Schubert, Chopin, Brahms, and others, Pollini is also known as a champion of modern composers like Pierre Boulez, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Giacomo Manzoni, Salvatore Sciarrino and Bruno Maderna.
In 1960, the eighteen year old Pollini won the International Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw, Poland. Arthur Rubinstein, who led the jury, remarked, "that boy can play the piano better than any of us". Pollini studied under Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli, who shares this birthday.
Pollini has used his music to further political movements about which he is passionate. In 1972, he collaborated with composer Luigi Nono in Como una ola fuerza y luz, mourning the assassination of leader of the Chilean Revolutionary Front.
More recently, Pollini performed a series of concerts at Carnegie Hall in 2000-2001, called "Perspectives: Maurizio Pollini". During 2010 to 2011, Pollini performed at London's Royal Festival Hall with the "Pollini Project", a series of five concerts. Pollini's exceptional musicianship has earned him much recognition; most recently, in 2012, he entered the Gramophone Hall of Fame. Today, Maurizio Pollini turns 70.
Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli
Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli (January 5, 1920 - June 12 1995) was an Italian classical pianist who is considered to be one of the greatest pianists of the twentieth century. Michelangeli began music lessons at the age of three and entered the Milan Conservatory at ten.
Like his future student Maurizio Pollini, Michelangeli entered an international competition at which Arthur Rubinstein was a judge. According to Rubinstein, he gave "an unsatisfactory performance, but already showed his impeccable technique."
It is thought to be owed to the pianist's "obsessive nature" that his repertoire was rather small; he preferred to concentrate on specific works and is especially remembered for his series on Debussy.
Michelangeli's reading of Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 4 has been compared to that of Rachmaninoff himself.
The music critic Harold C. Schonberg wrote of Michelangeli, "His fingers can no more hit a wrong note or smudge a passage than a bullet can be veered off course once it has been fired...The puzzling part about Michelangeli is that in many pieces of the romantic repertoire he seems unsure of himself emotionally, and his otherwise direct playing is then laden with expressive devices that disturb the musical flow."
However, others have praised Michelangeli's intense expressiveness as a measure of his ability to personalize each of the compositions he pored over. The conductor Sergiu Celibidache remarked of the pianist, "Michelangeli makes colors; he is a conductor."