‘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 complete Liszt recordings for Decca, from poetic performances of the two Concertos, through to thundering, yet evocative renditions of the Two Legends, and a selection of pieces from the Swiss and Italian books of Years of Pilgrimage. Referring specifically to Kempff’s non-bombastic Liszt, Brendel called them ‘the greatest we have’.
Piano Concerto No. 1 in E flat major, S124
Piano Concerto No. 2 in A major, S125
London Symphony Orchestra
Eglogue bold (Années de pèlerinage: 1e année: Suisse) light
Au lac de Wallenstadt (Années de pèlerinage: 1e année: Suisse)
Au bord d’une source (Années de pèlerinage: 1e année: Suisse)
Il Penseroso (Années de pèlerinage: 2ème année: Italie)
Canzonetta del Salvator Rosa (Années de pèlerinage: 2ème année: Italie)
Gondoliera (Venezia e Napoli)
Tre Sonetti di Petrarca (Années de pèlerinage: 2ème année: Italie)
Wilhelm Kempff, piano
Recording Producers: Peter Andry (Concertos); unknown (CD2)
Balance Engineers: Kenneth Wilkinson (Concertos); unknown (CD2)
Recording Locations: Kingsway Hall, London, UK, 2 & 4 June 1954 (Concertos); Decca Studios, West Hampstead, London, UK, 13 November 1950 (CD2: 1–8), 5 November 1951 (CD2: 9–11)
‘almost anything played by this keyboard titan is worth hearing’ International Piano
‘poetry in almost every phrase’ Gramophone
‘I was so thrilled and excited by Kempff’s truly magnificent performances of these pieces and by the fine recording of the piano … that I was afraid to play the record again… But I did hear it and I shall not easily forget it.’ Gramophone (solo Liszt)