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Wilhelm Kempff: The Complete 1950's Concerto Recordings Box set

4.5 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Audio CD, Box set, February 11, 2003
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Editorial Reviews

Original Masters serie. 5 CD Box.

Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. Mozart: Piano Concerto K.450
  2. Beethoven: Piano Concerto Nos. 1 & 2
  3. Beethoven: Piano Concerto Nos. 3 & 5
  4. Beethoven: Piano Concerto No.4
  5. Schumann: Piano Concerto


Product Details

  • Orchestra: Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra
  • Audio CD (February 11, 2003)
  • SPARS Code: ADD
  • Number of Discs: 5
  • Format: Box set
  • Note on Boxed Sets: During shipping, discs in boxed sets occasionally become dislodged without damage. Please examine and play these discs. If you are not completely satisfied, we'll refund or replace your purchase.
  • Label: Deutsche Grammophon
  • ASIN: B00007BGXT
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #489,637 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Michael Brad Richman HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on May 29, 2003
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Now that Decca and Deutsche Grammophon, among others, are all part of Universal, we have seen some interesting things happen, and not all of them bad. What I'm referring to in this case is the new "Original Masters" Limited Edition Box Set series. Finally, the classical music world has taken a page out of the jazz reissue handbook -- put out a quality product featuring rare recordings but make its availability limited, and people will snatch it up. In the "Original Masters" series, first DG and now Decca have each reissued five box sets, of 4 to 7 CDs each, in distinguished, space-saving slim paper boxes, though the style of packaging is different. The DG sets feature 50s style graphics design on their covers, while the Decca ones have a distinctive rainbow/spectrum pattern on the spines and banners, and a black-and-white photo of the artist in question on the face of the box.

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.
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I didn't think I would ever hear as fine a set of the 5 Beethoven concertos as Fleisher/Szell, Kovacevich/Davis or several accounts by Arrau with varying conductors (Schnabel, Brendel, Rubinstein, & Perahia also made very good complete sets). But then I heard these magnificent performances which are among the finest I've heard & superior to his stereo recordings with Leitner (IMHO). As if the Beethoven wasn't enough, you get 2 very good Mozart concertos, both of Liszt's (though not in the same league as Richter's) and a better than average Schumann. The only clunker in the lot is the Brahms. Too bad he didn't record that one in his prime, as it is one of the most technically difficult concertos to pull off. My favorite there is Curzon/Szell along with stellar performances by Serkin/Szell, Gilels/Jochum, Fleisher/Szell, Arrau w/ Kubelik, Haitink & Kletzki and Katchen/Monteux. Mr. Lipscomb stated that the Beethoven was already available, but that 3 disc set costs quite a bit more than these 5 discs (hopefully it will be reissued at a friendlier price), even used through marketplace sellers. While I admire all of the alternative Schumann concertos he mentioned, most of them are unavailable or very hard to find and rather costly. My personal favorites that are readily available are Rubinstein/Leinsdorf, Kovacevich/Davis, Fleisher/Szell and Michelangeli (several versions). My 5 stars are for the Beethoven. The rest I would give 4 stars (except the Brahms).
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Format: Audio CD
By far the most attractive items in this 5-disc set are the classic Beethoven concerto readings that Kempff recorded in the 1950's with Kempen and the Berlin Philharmonic. In my estimation, they comprise one of the two most completely satisfying integrales of these eternally-fresh works ever committed to disc (along with the worthy Schnabel/Sargent 1930's readings in lesser sound on Naxos & other labels).

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.
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When I was young I was impatient with Mr. Kempff. I had his complete stereo version of the Beethoven piano concertos and sonatas on LP and I thought he was too limpid in my youth. I have since come to reappraise his artistry from a more mature perspective and even though he is not a heaven storming virtuoso, he more than makes up for it with the logic of his musicianship and the translucent sonority he gets from the instrument.

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.
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