Most of us listen to Alfred Brendel play the piano.

Recordings, television appearances and live performances over decades have consolidated his reputation as one of the greatest musical artists today,  distinguished by peerless interpretations of the Viennese classics and selected modern masters. 

A parallel career as writer, poet and artist  is less familiar, as are his lectures – or public conversations.   

Very few performers discurse  publicly on the nature of their art: generally, it speaks for itself, but  when discerned  by the character, intellect, charm and humour of so articulate and accessible an artist,  the audience is ‘educated, moved  and entertained’.  

His talk focussed on ‘ A Pianists A to Z’, or, an excuse to consider aspects of music from his unique standpoint. 

It was scholarly and serious, controversial and lighthearted:  Hegel was quoted to illustrate contradiction,  Haydn was chosen to demonstrate musical jokes and Beethoven used to explain that character and composition are not necessarily aligned.

He has no truck with virtuosity for its own sake and his life’s work has been to ‘kiss’  the score to life with love and understanding. 

Now we know a little how the magic happens  – but we know that only Brendel could do it.