Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Is Alfred Brendel A Poet?

On Radio 4 this morning, there was a long feature on the world famous pianist Alfred Brendel, who turns 80 soon, and who has turned from playing concert piano to emphasising his role as poet, cemented by a new collection out any day now.  Brendel has been published by Faber, and writes an odd sort of poem: free verse, mainly, with surreal or zany references to often musicological situations.  His Mozart murder poem is a good example of where his ear takes him.  I am not a classical music critic but accept Brendel's preeminence in that field.  I wonder, would he be attended to as a poet otherwise?  The UK has many equally (more?) deserving older poets of great achievement who could do with a spot on national morning radio, too.  I raise this because in the piece he was asked whether he was a pianist or poet, and he had the modesty to say both.  Glenn Gould, bless him, was a genius as an editor and radio man, but never let that get to his head.  The title poet - for those who wish to take it - is always there, a hat on a high hat-stand we can all reach on tip toes - but those who claim the fedora should be careful it not slip off our too-big heads.
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