Wilhelm Kempff, pre-war & wartime transfers

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Lance
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Wilhelm Kempff, pre-war & wartime transfers

Post by Lance » Thu Aug 31, 2017 4:39 pm

https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com ... US218_.jpg
Appian (APR) 6019, two CDs priced as one [Concertos except No. 2 plus solos)
https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com ... US218_.jpg
Appian (APR) 6018, two CDs priced as one (Sonatas 24,26,27,28,29,30,31,32)

Those who loved the grand art of pianist WILHELM KEMPFF (1895-1991), was among the world's longest recording artists of all time, from the early 78rpm acoustics through to the stereo era. (I do not immediately recall if he recorded anything digitally, but he probably did.) His Schubert and Beethoven performances were hallmarks of his entire concert and recording career. Indeed, there were three each of the complete sonatas for Polydor (actually not complete but here mentioned as comparisons), the early mono set from DGG and the later stereo edition for DGG. Kempff's 1950s mono set, which has, for most pianophiles, been his preferred reading.

Now, through the expert restoration services of Mark Obert-Thorn we have these pre-war and wartime 78-rpm recordings made between 1925 and 1936 (sonatas) and 1925 to 1942 for the concerted works. All the original recordings were from Polydor better known today as Deutsche Grammophon, though there is more to label this story, which you can learn from the outstandingly written booklets accompanying both of these sets. They give an in-depth study of the differences between all the cycles recorded by Kempff far better than I can go into on this site.

Incidentally, Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 1 in C Major, Op. 15 included in these releases constitutes the first ever made recording of the work. (No conductor is mentioned in this 1925 recording, but it could be Kempff conducting from the keyboard.) The Third Concerto is led by Paul Van Kempen (r.1942) the Fourth Concerto with Van Kempen (r.1940); the Fifth (Emperor) C is led by Peter Raabe, recorded in 1936.
Lance G. Hill
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John F
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Re: Wilhelm Kempff, pre-war & wartime transfers

Post by John F » Fri Sep 01, 2017 1:29 am

I bought most of the early 1950s Beethoven sonatas on the cheesy American Decca pressings and learned much of the music from them. The stereo remake for DG disappointed me; the playing was somehow more rigid, more "canned." (I haven't listened to the whole set and maybe some of it is better than that.) Definitely interested in Kempff's earlier recordigns. He was one of the most spontaneous of the German Beethoven pianists of his time, in recitals (I heard two) and often on records; his short-term relationship with English Decca produced some marvelous Liszt and Brahms.

As for that Beethoven 1st, I'd bet any amount you like that Kempff did not conduct from the keyboard - as far as I know, he never did. The likely possibilities are that more than one conductor was involved - that happened sometimes when a concerto or opera wasn't completed in the first sessions - or that Polydor used a staff conductor who didn't rate billing by name. The Kempff discography online doesn't answer the question; Frank Forman, who compiled it, does not provide information such as recording dates that could only be obtained from documentation from the record companies, which he evidently hasn't seen.

Forman's discography, including an essay, is well worth reading. It's not flawless but I don't know of a better one:

http://www.panix.com/~checker/kempff.htm
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Re: Wilhelm Kempff, pre-war & wartime transfers

Post by maestrob » Fri Sep 01, 2017 12:22 pm

I too admire Kempff's Schubert set (in stereo) and his mono Beethoven Sonatas. The stereo Beethoven set has some strange moments in the later sonatas where Kempff simply cannot handle the passagework technically; I find that set unsatisfying. The Schubert stereo set is, however, so full of meaning and beauty, it's quite extraordinary. I look forward to getting the new issues you mention here Lance. Thanks for keeping an eye out! :)

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