Listeners should approach this two-disc set of Rudolf Kempe leading the Staatskapelle Dresden aware of certain caveats. These are live performances recorded in East Germany in 1974, and the sound is harsh, distant, and one-dimensional. Pianist Malcom Frager isn't up to the enormous difficulties of Schumann's Piano Concerto, and his performance is riddled with dropped and missed notes. Also, Debussy's Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun sounds as Gallic as sauerkraut. The listener who can get past these flaws, though, will be rewarded with some amazing performances. Kempe and the Staatskapelle are well known for their incomparable studio Strauss recordings, and their account of Ein Heldenleben is simply magnificent -- forceful yet tender, colorful yet incisive, opulent but heroic. Although this Prelude will never be mistaken for a French performance of the work, it is still singularly effective as seduction music. Frager makes a mess of Schumann's cadenzas, but his interpretations do not detract too badly from the rousing accompaniment provided by Kempe and the Staatskapelle. This set is certainly not for everyone, but it should be of interest to listeners who revere Kempe.
AllMusic Review by James Leonard
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2
|Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 54|