Wilhelm Kempff - The Decca Legacy
Limited edition 13CD set
The Decca legacy of WILHELM KEMPFF, one of the last century’s greatest keyboard poets.
Wilhelm Kempff is known, with good reason, as a Beethoven interpreter of sublime simplicity, with several cycles of the concertos and sonatas to his credit, all of them recorded for DG. However, he began recording as early as 1918 and made records for Polydor before the war, as well as for Decca during the 1950s. While his DG recordings have rarely been out of the catalogue, his legacy on other labels has never been so comprehensively documented as it is on this newly remastered set from Eloquence.
Offered as a ‘historical’ appendix are Kempff’s Polydor recordings of Beethoven sonatas with like-minded and recreative partners including the violinist Georg Kulenkampff (the ‘Kreutzer’) and the cellists Pablo Casals (Cello Sonata Op. 5 No. 1)and Paul Grümmer (Cello Sonata Op. 69), better known as a long-standing member of the Busch Quartet. These pre-war and mid-war recordings, newly remastered, add significantly to our understanding of Kempff as an artist of extraordinarily wide sympathies and imagination.
The same could be said of his Decca legacy, which in its complete form should dispel the tenacious myth that he was first and foremost a Beethoven pianist. In 1950 he began recording the solo music of Brahms in the 78 era, with repertoire which he then recorded again in 1953 for LP. In the 1953 sessions he also recorded the composer’s late piano music, which is touched with an elusive grace that very few pianists find as surely as Kempff. Of interest to many will be previously unpublished material (Rameau, Brahms) as well as Kempff’s first recordings for Decca of music by J.S. Bach, receiving their first release on CD.
In the booklet essay for the box, Alfred Brendel explains how he particularly esteems Kempff’s Decca recordings, for the piano sound captured at the company’s studios in West Hampstead in London, and also how he prizes the pianist’s recordings of Liszt above all: ‘truly legendary’. He recalls seeing Kempff play Schubert’s Sonatas D. 845, which Decca also captured, as an inspiration for his own subsequent dedication to the composer’s piano sonatas. A pair of Mozart concertos, KV 219 and KV 450, finds Kempff’s phrasing at its most limpid and apparently effortless. His Decca discography concluded in fine style in 1958 with sessions which yielded three LP albums of Chopin.
Eloquence 13CD Set