Wilhelm Kempff

Kempff Plays Mozart, Schubert, Beethoven, Brahms

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Kempff Plays Mozart, Schubert, Beethoven, Brahms Review

by James Leonard

German pianist Wilhelm Kempff was casual enough in the studio -- for all his long familiarity with the music of Beethoven, Kempff's two recordings of his complete sonatas are radically different in matters of tempo, texture, and interpretation -- but in this live recording made at Whitworth Hall at Manchester University in October 1967, Kempff seems to be composing more than performing the music. This isn't to say the performances here are poor -- far from it. His opening Mozart F major Sonata, K. 332, is gracious in its outer movements and probing in its central Adagio; his central Schubert B flat major Sonata, D. 960, is heartrending in its opening movements and death-defying in its concluding movements; and his closing Beethoven A major Sonata, Op. 101, is vivacious in its even numbered movements and pensive in its odd numbered movements. And this isn't to say there aren't moments here of incredible sloppiness -- there are passages in the Schubert sonata's closing movement that drops buckets full of notes. But it is to say that these performances will send those who think they know the works -- even those who, based on his studio recordings, think they know Kempff's interpretations -- back to their scores. The two late Brahms Intermezzos that serve as encores -- the B minor and C major from Opus 119 -- are as free and refreshing as everything else, albeit it also profoundly nostalgic. Although the live sound is dim and dull, this disc is worth hearing by anyone who loves Kempff.

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