Wilhelm Kempff: The Complete 1950's Concerto Recordings Box set
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This particular set brings back Wilhelm Kempff's Complete Concerto Recordings from the 1950s for DG. There are some real gems here, including his first Beethoven PC Cycle with Paul Van Kempen and the Berlin Philharmonic, Mozart Piano Concertos Nos. 9 & 15 with Karl Munchinger, Brahms' PC No. 1 with Franz Konwitschny, the Schumann with Josef Krips and the London Symphony, and both Liszt Concertos with Anatole Fistoulari and the LSO. I should mention that since all of the Concertos were recorded in the early 50s, they are all in mono, but still sound lovely. Well, I guess the consolidation of the music industry isn't so bad after all, as long as I can look forward to more reissues like this.
While it's nice to re-visit Kempff's Mozart #9 and #15 with Munchinger, neither is really a match for Haskil/Ackermann (in #9 on M&A) or Solomon/Ackermann (in their #15 on Testament). Ackermann gives his soloists more supportive and better-played accompaniments than Munchinger's for Kempff. I never found Kempff to be a particularly illuminating Schumann player, and this Piano Concerto is pretty much an also-ran in a field that contains such superb accounts as Moiseiwitsch/Ackermann (Testament), Lipatti/Ansermet (Decca), Gieseking/Furtwangler (DG), and Gulda/Andreae (Decca). Unfortunately, the Brahms 1st Piano Concerto was well beyond Kempff's fingers by the 1950's, and Konwitschny is a rather prosaic partner (just compare this with Rubinstein/Reiner to hear what's lacking here). And, while perfectly satisfactory, Kempff's renditions of the Liszt concertos simply pale beside Sviatoslav Richter's (Philips).
The Beethoven concertos constitute the real draw here. But this is yet another example of how the classical CD collector today is faced with a flood of needlessly duplicated performances. These Beethoven concertos are ALREADY available as a 3-disc DG set (#435744), coupled with Kempff's really superb renditions of the lovely Op. 51 Rondos, which are sadly EXCLUDED here.Read more ›
His early mono traversal of all 5 Beethoven Piano Concertos is included here and what a revelation it is! Wonderful performances. I have, as yet, to listen to his later stereo version to compare but I was bowled over by these interpretations. Full of passion and fire and complete with his own inventive (yet stylistically intact) cadenzas. This set is a joy.
The other concertos also display Kempff's seeming inexorable logic when it comes to elucidating the structure, both emotionally and architecturally, of the works. The Brahms is one of the most interesting interpretations I've ever heard, full of sturm and drang and also on the deliberate side when it comes to tempi (especially the coda in the last movement which is strangely satisfactory).
I am currently listening to the Schumann which is very poetic and I have as yet to listen to the 2 Liszt Concerti, but I'm sure they'll be fascinating.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I had read many reviews over the years that asserted that Kempff's mono recordings of the Beethoven concertos, made in 1953, were preferable to his stereo remakes with Leitner. Read morePublished on August 10, 2013 by Stanley Crowe
I like Alfred Brendel's comment that Kempff was `like an Aeolian harp, ever ready to respond to whatever interesting wind blew his way' -- a polite way of saying that this... Read morePublished on November 15, 2008 by Santa Fe Listener