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Alfred Brendel is interviewed in The Times.

Brendel’s range was enormous: the Austro-German classics of Beethoven, Mozart, Haydn and Brahms through to the complex works of Liszt and Schoenberg. But were there any famous composers with whom he felt that he wouldn’t get anywhere? “There were certainly some with whom I felt that I didn’t want to get anywhere,” he replies. “Rachmaninov, for instance — for me, it’s music for teenagers. He was a composer who knew his craft, who could invent large themes and was a great pianist. But for his time he was a reactionary. His music was not new enough. And for me the criterion of a masterpiece is whether it presents something that wasn’t there before.”

Brendel may have stopped playing in public, but his public appearances are hardly diminished. Now, however, he is giving poetry readings, masterclasses and lectures. One of his favourite lectures asks the question “Does classical music have to be entirely serious?” — which Brendel (who once declared that his favourite occupation was laughing) answers with a resounding no. But would he really like to hear laughter in, say, a piano recital? “Certainly. If you can’t make an audience laugh at the end of Beethoven’s Piano Sonata Op 31 No 1, you should become an organist.”

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