For many collectors in the 1960s, the budget priced Vox Turnabout LPs of the Beethoven Sonatas and Concertos were a revelation, and introduced an amazing young talent to the public.
Alfred Brendel was born in 1931 in Wiesenberg, and won the Concorso Busoni in 1949. He studied with Edwin Fischer, Paul Baumgartner and Edward Steuermann. The Vox Beethoven recordings won the Grand Prix du Disque in 1965, and were praised by critics world-wide.
These early recordings illustrate clearly all the characteristics that would become a hallmark of Brendel’s playing. A refusal to fall back on ‘flashy’ bravura, and the intellectual rigour he brings to the Beethoven sonatas marked him out even in these early recordings as one of the very great pianists of the 20th century. Brendel retired from the musical scene in 2009 at the height of his powers, leaving a recorded legacy without parallel in the music of Beethoven, Mozart and Schubert.
- "They are lively, direct, forceful and stylish; and nowhere do they find Brendel wanting in brilliance or facility. He certainly sounds as if he enjoys playing the piano" (Gramophone, June 1964).
- "This is a strikingly polished performance of the “Hammerklavier” Sonata" (Gramophone, April 1962).
- "Principally it is the earlier sonatas which are included here, and these benefit very much from Brendel's strong attack. But the slow movements, too, seem more fully satisfying now than they did in the last box: those of the C major and E flat Sonatas, particularly, take their rightful place as forerunners of Beethoven's adagio style to come. Again Brendel is generous with repeats" (Gramophone, March 1965).
• The sonatas in this present box are most beautifully played. Particularly, perhaps, the quicker and more forthright movements; here there is a splendid rhythmic firmness, helped along by strong accents and by an effective habit of spreading an occasional chord for extra stress (this must have been clone in Beethoven's time, you would think, with harpsichord techniques still in the air). The rhythmic control is especially rewarding in contrapuntal sections of the music, where Brendel's left hand projects the whole music firmly forward’ Gramophone February 1965
• “This was the set that first put Brendel on the road to international recognition. Listening to it, you can tell why that is.” MusicWeb, January 2011
• Comprehensive booklet essay