‘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 1950s Schumann – a beautifully-turned Piano Concerto with Krips as well as Papillons and the Arabeske – all recorded for Decca. Plus, for DG, the great C major Fantasie, the Études symphoniques and Kreisleriana.
Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 54
London Symphony Orchestra
Fantasie in C major, Op. 17
Papillons, Op. 2
Symphonische Etüden, Op. 13
Kreisleriana, Op. 16
Arabeske, Op. 18
Wilhelm Kempff, piano
Recording producers: Victor Olof (Piano Concerto); Karl-Heinz Schneider (Fantasie, Symphonische Etüden, Kreisleriana); unknown (Papillons, Arabeske)
Balance Engineers: Kenneth Wilkinson (Piano Concerto); Heinz Wildhagen (Fantasie, Symphonische Etüden, Kreisleriana); unknown (Papillons, Arabeske)
Recording Locations: Kingsway Hall, London, UK, 26 & 27 March 1953 (Piano Concerto); Decca Studios, West Hampstead, London, UK, 5 November 1951 (Papillons, Arabeske); Beethovensaal, Hanover, Germany, 4 & 5 January 1957 (Fantasie), 16 & 17 January 1956 (Symphonische Etüden), 3 May 1956 (Kreisleriana)
‘almost anything played by this keyboard titan is worth hearing’ International Piano
‘poetry in almost every phrase’ Gramophone
‘When one hears Kempff’s Papillons … the Symphonic Studies, the piano concerto or the Kreisleriana, then miracles of refinement are at hand’ Joachim Kaiser
‘flows easily, totally charming’ [Arabeske] … ‘songful and flowing, with the fifth section sparkling and full of fantasy, and the sixth, Sehr langsam, as rapt as I have ever heard it’ Gramophone