One finger too many

The classical music world knows Alfred Brendel as one of the foremost pianists of his time. Far fewer people know him as a poet, with two books of poetry in German and one—One finger too many—in English translation (New York: Random House, 1999).

The collection’s title poem concerns a pianist who developed a third index finger “not to play the piano with/though it sometimes did intervene/discreetly/in tricky passages/but to point things out/when both hands were busy.”

While some of Brendel’s poems are serious, many are light-hearted. He explains, “At one stage in my life I didn’t laugh enough…some mechanism in my psyche may have come to my rescue.” The title of another poem, “Not Brahms again”, points to a humorous but therapeutic reflection that he describes as “a little revenge for the perversity of the B♭ concerto…the passages which, as they stand, are literally unplayable.”

This according to “The poet speaks” by Michael Church (BBC music magazine, VII/3 [November 1998], pp. 32–33).

Today is Maestro Brendel’s eightieth birthday! Below, an excerpt from the documentary Alfred Brendel: Man and mask by Mark Kidel (BBC, 2000).

BONUS: Cover one half of Brendel’s face and then the other in the above photograph to see two completely different expressions.

 

1 Comment

Filed under Humor, Literature, Performers

One response to “One finger too many

  1. Pingback: Beethoven and Peanuts | Bibliolore

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