Alfred Brendel says: Don’t vote Brexit

Alfred Brendel says: Don’t vote Brexit


norman lebrecht

June 02, 2016

The retired pianist, 85, has joined a petition to the British people by 125 cultural personalities, urging them to stay in the EU.

The petition, which appears in today’s Times Literary Supplement, is also signed by the Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, the Irish rugby player Tommy Bowe, the chef Raymond Blanc and other public intellectuals.

There are other classical signatories: the composers Krzyzstof Penderecki and Richard Dubugnon, and a French music critic, Michka Assayas.

The petition reads:

Sir, – All of us in Europe respect the right of the British people to decide whether they wish to remain with us in the European Union. It is your decision, and we will all accept it. Nevertheless, if it will help the undecided to make up their minds, we would like to express how very much we value having the United Kingdom in the European Union. It is not just treaties that join us to your country, but bonds of admiration and affection. All of us hope that you will vote to renew them. Britain, please stay.

Like many wavering voters, I am profoundly moved and will give the appeal due consideration.

On the other hand, the day Mr Brendel comes to me for piano lessons is the day I will turn to him for political advice.

See the full petition here.


photo (c)


  • DESR says:

    “It is not just treaties that join us to your country, but bonds of admiration and affection. All of us hope that you will vote to renew them. Britain, please stay.”

    Er, guys, we’ll still be here. Still part of the continent and culture of Europe. Just not inside the structure of the EU.

    As it is, you come here for a one night stand and use this place like a hotel…

    You never write, you never phone…

    • John Borstlap says:

      …. because, deep-down you (UK) don’t like us.

      • Halldor says:

        No, that’s not true: centuries of history disproves it. That same history has just taught us to be grateful that we’re next to the continent but not actually part of it, that’s all.

      • DESR says:

        Whom, pray, do we dislike? Europeans?

        We ARE Europeans, just not really European Unionists.

  • Martin says:

    Some may find Mr Lebrecht’s jibe about piano lessons to be funny, but it’s a poor substitute for a real argument. His lambasting of the EU (not just its institutions) and his apparent concern for the survival of the EU Youth Orchestra (from which British musicians will be barred if Brexit wins, brilliant) illustrate the typical schizophrenic position most eurosceptics find themselves in.

  • Raymond says:

    Having “bonds of admiration and affection” has absolutely nothing to do with Britain being in or out of the EU. This bonds were there before the EU monster was created and they will be there if Britain votes to get away from the EU monster.
    Artists are often naive and tend to be idealistic. The EU was founded upon idealism and zero pragmatism. It is especially hard for me to understand how a world renowned and well travelled artist like Alfred Brendel could support the EU. Hasn’t he realised, when travelling to the EU member states that they are a disparate and non homogenous group? That is also what makes Europe so wonderful. It should be obvious though, that you can not have a coherent and strong ‘Union’ without political union. That is impossible, so we end up with Brussels and a faceless, non-elected body of bureaucrats making laws that nobody can oppose, nobody can vote these “lawmakers” out and in addition, they vote laws that keep themselves in power on increasing salaries, tax free, all at the expense of EU taxpayers. How could any democratic loving citizen of the world champion such a putrid and obviously corrupt system? I challenge any reader here to name me a current EU member country that is thriving, prosperous and maintains a low tax base and an entrepreneurial spirit. Then think of some of the non-EU countries in Europe: Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and ask yourselves and check the statistics to see whether they have a higher standard of living than EU member states. The answer is obvious. Or perhaps the UK wants to follow in France’s footsteps, a country with perhaps the greatest potential to thrive, destroyed by both the EU and its own outrageous bureaucracy, oppressive tax system and anti-business regulations. I’ll take the exit, thank you!

    • Richard S says:

      Your refusal to acknowledge that there might be an intellectually defensible case for remaining within the EU is symptomatic of the narrow-minded position-taking rhetoric that has characterised the campaigns of both sides of the debate. Why say “It is especially hard for me to understand how a world renowned and well travelled artist like Alfred Brendel could support the EU. Hasn’t he realised, when travelling to the EU member states that they are a disparate and non homogenous group?” I imagine, on the contrary, that Mr Brendel is an intelligent and perceptive traveller and one who has a greater sensitivity to the nuances of arguments than you appear to have. Making condescending remarks about those who take the opposite view to your own on a question which appears – from what the polls tell us – to have more or less divided our nation in half, is surely uncalled for. Do you really think that the half of the nation that disagrees with you are all idiots? And that Mr Brendel is in the idiot camp?

    • Holly Golightly says:

      You’ve made some very sound and valid comments. Totally agree.

  • Halldor says:

    “We value having the United Kingdom in the European Union. It is not just treaties that join us to your country, but bonds of admiration and affection. All of us hope that you will vote to renew them.”

    Why have the politicians in the “remain” camp so far been unable to articulate something as important and meaningful as this? A bit more of this sort of thing from Herr Junckers and his colleagues (and fewer veiled threats); more heartfelt, positive arguments for “remain” from people whose opinion has some human value, instead of a parade of the powerful warning us plebs not to rock their boat – and there might still be a chance of reversing the Brexit tide.

    • DESR says:

      The Remain campaign has been bereft of any sense of hope and change, precious little confidence in the existing arrangements, and the vaunted renegotiation has been shown to be empty of any meaning.

      Just a bucketload of scaremongering, mainly got up to save the jobs of Cameron and Osborne.


      What musicians are supposed to be any more gullible than others I am not sure. Naive? No. Cowed by a localised consensus? Possibly.

  • Holly Golightly says:

    Well, an Austrian would say that wouldn’t he???!!

    • Richard S says:

      I’m trying to understand your comment. Is there something particular to Austrians that would lead one to expect that all Austrians would make similar comments? Or is it simply that, as citizens of the EU, Austrians will all want the UK to remain? In other words, every single citiizen of every nation in the EU, with the exception of the UK, will want the UK to remain in the EU. It’s possible, I suppose. But I don’t know how you know. To the best of my knowledge the polling has not been that extensive.

      Oh, and by the way, I’m not quite sure that he is Austrian. Here’s his childhood summarised in a few words: “His ancestors are a mixture of German, Austrian, Italian and Slav. He was born on 5 January 1931 at Wiesenberg, northern Moravia (now the Czech Republic) and spent his childhood travelling throughout Yugoslavia and Austria.” Jumping a few decades, he now lives in London, and has done for quite a long time. So “he would say that, wouldn’t he?” is not entirely unfair. But not because he’s Austrian. Rather because he has good reasons to feel that he is a European citizen, with Britain being a significant part of the wider European tapestry within which he has lived his life and formed his career.

      • Sue says:

        If he’s been granted citizenship he’s just as Austrian as if he was born there!!

        • Richard S says:

          Not in an argument in which the implied message is that somebody’s nationality will invariably shape his/her views one way or another (i.e. not a point about legal status, but about socio-cultural shaping). Brendel is, as he acknowledges, Austrian by nationality and passport. But he has also said, “I am not rooted. I am very happy not to need any sort of soil.” You might feel that he is deluding himself. But it is worth pondering the fact that he has lived in London for over 40 years. So to take the view that because he’s Austrian he’s sure to think a particular way (when stated in such bald terms, the absurdity is clear anyway) is surely rather silly.

  • Pianofortissimo says:

    The artist’s progress: from great pianist to pretentious essayist to useful petitioning cultural personality. What’s next?

    • Sue says:

      Painter and poet.

    • Richard S says:

      Your preference, I presume, would be for those who are great at something to do that, and that only. And when they have finished doing it, to shut up and go away. If so, it’s a miserably impoverishing view of the life of an artist, or indeed of anybody else. Personally, I find it reassuring to learn that a great artist has wide interests. That Brendel writes, paints, collects unintentional humour, has views on matters of great moment does not make him, in any obvious way, a greater pianist. But knowing these things does make me feel that a pianist is not just a marvelous musical machine, but a fellow participant in the world we inhabit – somebody whom I can like or dislike, agree or disagree with, but most importantly recognise as authentically human. All of these things inflect the way I hear and enjoy the music which they are communicating.

  • doremi says:

    Another pianist doing politics….pff…are they tired of playing??

    • Tausendsassa says:

      Why not? The pianists who “do politics” do it a hell of a lot better–and more thoughtfully– than most politicians, and certainly with less concern for their own public careers.

      In any case, it is now amply clear to any sentient being that the vote for Brexit was as disastrous (almost) and ill-informed as what the US populace voted for some 5 months later.

      • doremi says:

        Daniel Barenboim tries by all means to reconciliate Arabs and jews but his aim however to be praised is clueless.
        Even if he has 3 passports and thus 3 nationalities won”t help.