Wednesday 26 May 2004

Alfred Brendel

It immediately struck me that the man I saw coming in the shop was Alfred Brendel. Then I thought twice; maybe he just looks like Alfred Brendel. And the man’s eyes were blue. Were Alfred Brendel’s eyes blue? Since I’ve only seen black and white pictures of him, it was impossible for me to tell. That’s the problem when you know somebody from pictures only. You don’t know how they walk, talk, how tall they are, what body language they have. You remember one photograph in particular, but it’s an old one. And if it’s a profile, then you’re done. Do people age in a picture? How did Alfred Brendel age? I thought he would always be the same young man I remembered from the booklet of the Beethoven record set my parents would play when I was a child. How would it feel three decades or so later?
But that man was Alfred Brendel. I heard him talk two days before at the Musikverein, and I saw him walk. I was surprised by how tall he was. I thought he would be the Woody Allen type. Or my father type. But his mild manners are deceiving.

A open air concert isn’t my ideal of a classical concert. But tonight, Bobby McFerrin is conducting the Wiener Philharmoniker. A celebration for Europe to be taking place at the Schönbrunn Palace garden.
From the crowd that gathered tonight, it could have been a new Woodstock, a pop concert or a demonstration for human rights.
‘Let’s play another polka!’ he said by the end of the concert. ‘That was cool! That was fun!’
That cool rasta man conducting a Viennese waltz was a sight not to be missed. And above all, he didn’t let the orchestra take it for granted. So during the rehearsal, one of the Viennese anthems, ‘Wiener Blut’, was stopped, resumed, stopped again, replayed from the beginning. The program might have been a corny one, but Master McFerring never allowed it be a boring one. 

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