The pianist Alfred Brendel would never, but never, inject any sentimentality into his patrician interpretations of the classics, but one wonders if he experienced a slight catch in his throat at the loving response his audience of long time fans gave to his farewell appearance at Orchestra Hall in Chicago.
He offered a kind of microcosm of his career, great gobs of Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert with smaller dollops of Bach and Liszt. It's not a broad range he covers, but he goes deep and his technique is still near flawless. He's seemingly slowed down a bit -- this was most noticeable in the Mozart Sonata -- but he fills the spaces he creates with such inight and precision, that it all seems right.
Never showy, he still fights the tics which show how intensely he is concentrating on the musical challenges he boldly tosses off.
His program was thoughtfully chosen, as much for the substance of the pieces as for the respect shown to the intelligence of his audience. Nothing commonplace, but music at the heart of the composers' work. Who programs the other Beethoven Sonata "Quasi una fantasia" instead of the Moonlight Sonata? Who would be likely to open a program with a complex series of variations which ends in an anticlimax as does the exquisite Haydn work? And the encores, spotlighting the lesser-known Brendel: the second movement, so romantic, from Bach's Italian Concerto, and some almost impressionistic Liszt.
The second half of the program was devoted to Schubert's last Sonata, and it too was a deeply considered choice -- a valedictory piece to begin with done with a profound understanding of the sequential nature of the structure, it's emotional rather than logical structure.
I was really moved to see this humble yet somehow grand artist walking slowly out of my life...