‘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.
All of Kempff’s post-war recordings of Mozart are here presented on two 2CD sets. The first comprises five piano concertos, while the second brings together three piano concertos, two sonatas and two Fantasias. The naturalness, expressive freedom, freshness and spontaneity of the music-making will always be treasured.
WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART
Piano Concerto No. 9 in E flat major, KV 271 ‘Jeunehomme’
Piano Concerto No. 15 in B flat major, KV 450
Members of L’Orchestre de la Suisse Romande
Fantasia in D minor, KV 397
Fantasia in C minor, KV 475
Piano Sonata No. 8 in A minor, KV 310
Piano Sonata No. 11 in A minor, KV 331
Piano Concerto No. 27 in B flat major, KV 595
Wilhelm Kempff, piano
Recording Producers: Victor Olof (Piano Concertos Nos. 9 & 15); Hans Weber (Fantasias & Sonatas); Heinz Wildhagen (Fantasias & Sonatas); Otto Gerdes (Piano Concerto No. 27)
Balance Engineers: Gil Went (Piano Concertos Nos. 9 & 15); Heinz Wildhagen (Fantasias & Sonatas); Werner Wolf (Piano Concerto No. 27)
Recording Locations: Victoria Hall, Geneva, Switzerland, September 1953 (Piano Concertos Nos. 9 & 15); UFA-Tonstudio, Berlin, Germany, January 1962 (Fantasias & Sonatas, Piano Concerto No. 27)
‘almost anything played by this keyboard titan is worth hearing’ International Piano
‘poetry in almost every phrase’ Gramophone
‘Great performances, like great music, transcend history. Wilhelm Kempff, in his Mozart recital for DG in 1962 achieves miracles of beauty by means which are now frowned upon in certain circles but which are an object lesson in great piano-playing and great music-making: in phrasing at every level, in melodic inflection, finesse of rubato, pianistic colour as an agent of structure, in pedalling.’ Piano
‘The timbral bite and delicious registral differentiation characterising Lubin’s instruments was replicated on a modern grand piano when Wilhelm Kempff sat down to record a ravishing Mozart recital for DG in 1962 . . . Trills, turns and roulades caress the ear to the point where issues of “correct” style are irrelevant, while few pianists match the rhythmic kick of Kempff’s rolled chords in the Rondo alla turca. It’s also refreshing to hear the Fantasias (in D minor and C minor) sound more like unpressured improvisations than tortured soliloquies.’ Gramophone