Wilhelm Kempff

Steinway Legends: Wilhelm Kempff

(CD - Deutsche Grammophon #000743402)

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When it comes to German probity, German integrity, and German honesty, no piano player did it better than Wilhelm Kempff. Because while it's true that Kempff's technique was not in the same exalted virtuoso league as Horowitz's or Richter's, his profundity was second to none in the hardcore German repertoire. In this splendid two-disc collection in Universal's Steinway Legends series, Kempff demonstrates again and again and again why he's the height of German depth. Try the three transcriptions of Bach's chorale preludes: is there anything more serene, more sublime, more transcendent than Kempff's playing? Or try Schubert's Drei Klavier Stücke, D. 946: is there anything more poetic, more passionate, more true than Kempff's playing? Or try Brahms' Vier Klavier Stücke, Op. 119: is there anything more lyric, more romantic, more tragic than Kempff's playing? Although the program falters with the inclusion of Kempff's unidiomatic Chopin and unconvincing Liszt, for the most part this is as persuasive a case as has ever been made for the German greatness of Wilhelm Kempff. No matter when it was recorded, from the 1936 Bach recordings to the 1971 Schubert recording, Deutsche Grammophon's sound is crisp, clear, and, to the degree that the then-current level of technology would allow, absolutely real.

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