Wilhelm Kempff plays Chopin

Wilhelm Kempff plays Chopin
Wilhelm Kempff
Catalogue No.

‘When he is at his best he plays more beautifully than any of us’ wrote Alfred Brendel on the pianism of Wilhelm Kempff.

Eloquence is proud to announce a mini-edition devoted to some of the rarer recordings of Wilhelm Kempff, born in 1895 at Jüterbog, the son of a church organist. By 1916, Kempff was firmly established as a soloist in Europe following many appearances with the Berlin Philharmonic under Nikisch, and as a teacher (he became director of the Musikhochschule, Stuttgart, in 1924). In the 1930s, he gained a reputation in Beethoven’s sonatas, which he took around the world. Curiously, he did not appear in London until 1951, nor America until 1964. Apart from a period with Decca in the 1950s, Kempff was a Deutsche Grammophon artist for over 60 years, beginning in 1920. He continued to perform well into his 80s, and gave his final concert in 1981. From 1957, he had given annual courses at his home in Positano, Italy, where he died in 1991. Jeremy Nicholas contributes the notes for all these releases.

Kempff’s only recordings of music by Chopin were for Decca and then (1950s) as now, they continue to divide opinion. While certainly not of the perfumed variety, Kempff’s Chopin is straightforward while still poetic, gallant rather than passionate. The three original Decca LPs are combined on a 2CD set.


CD 1
Piano Sonata No. 2 in B flat minor, Op. 35 ‘Funeral March’
Impromptu No. 1 in A flat major, Op. 29
Impromptu No. 2 in F sharp major, Op. 36
Impromptu No. 3 in G flat major, Op. 51
Fantaisie-Impromptu in C sharp minor, Op. 66
Berceuse in D flat major, Op. 57
Barcarolle in F sharp major, Op. 60
Nocturne No. 3 in B major, Op. 9 No. 2
Scherzo No. 3 in C sharp minor, Op. 39

CD 2
Piano Sonata No. 3 in B minor, Op. 58
Ballade No. 3 in A flat major, Op. 47
Andante spianato and Grande Polonaise in E flat major, Op. 22
Fantaisie in F minor, Op. 49
Polonaise-Fantaisie in A flat major, Op. 61

Wilhelm Kempff, piano

Recording information

Recording Producer: Ray Minshull
Balance Engineer: unknown
Recording Location: Decca Studio 1, West Hampstead, London, UK, 24–28 February 1958


‘almost anything played by this keyboard titan is worth hearing’ International Piano

‘poetry in almost every phrase’ Gramophone

‘some serenely beautiful playing along the way, most notably in the Berceuse, Barcarolle and Ballade No 3 . . . unaffected, crystalline clarity of thought’ International Piano

‘delectable delicacy in the Berceuse and the Nocturne, likewise in the magic “waterfalls” of the C sharp minor Scherzo and the gracefully streaming right-hand tracery of the Impromptus – all four of them so refreshingly free from drawing-room coquetry.’ Gramophone