About the book
After the announcement of his retirement from the concert stage in 2008, Alfred Brendel, the famous pianist who during his six decades of performances has mastered the works of Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert and Liszt among many others, is now concentrating on his second passion: poetry.
Writing has long been Alfred Brendel’s foremost interest and favourite occupation. He has previously published several essays and lectures on musical subjects, including Musical Thoughts and Afterthoughts (1976), Music Sounded Out (1990), and Alfred Brendel on Music (2001), which came out to mark his 70th birthday. His literary work has, on several occasions, been praised by critics and the press on its own merit, setting aside his musical renown. Turning to verse, Brendel has also published a number of poetry volumes including One Finger Too Many (1998) and Cursing Bagels (2004).
His latest publication, Playing the Human Game, is Brendel’s first and most comprehensive collection of poems in English with their original German versions. The author has collaborated with the leading scholar, Richard Stokes, on the English translation of the poems in this volume. It features over 200 poems and includes previously unpublished poems. Additionally, the book is beautifully illustrated with artworks that have inspired the musician and his poetry.
Not surprisingly, many of Brendel’s poems evoke the world of classical music. In one poem, Beethoven, disguised as Salieri, poisons a sleeping Mozart and skulks away clutching, forever, Mozart’s greatest possession: the key of C minor. Elsewhere, the conceptual artist Christo wraps the Three Tenors on the balcony of La Scala. In another, the supernumerary index finger of the pianist takes centre stage and becomes an obstinate cougher in the hall beckoning a lady in the third row.
These are surprising and enchanting poems, revealing the light (and dark) side of Alfred Brendel, one of the world’s greatest musicians. His followers will have to have this book, but so will anyone who enjoys readable poetry written by a most curious and playful mind.
Published to coincide with Alfred Brendel’s 80th birthday, on the 5th January 2011, Playing the Human Game is the perfect companion to his future poetry readings and lectures.