C1647. RUDOLF KEMPE Cond. Orchestre National de la Radiodiffusion -Télévision française: Concerto Grosso, Op.6, #1 (Handel); Symphonie fantastique (Berlioz); w. CLIFFORD CURZON: Piano Concerto #24 in c, K.491; GEORG SOLTI Cond. Orchestre National de la Radiodiffusion -Télévision française, w. CLIFFORD CURZON: Piano Concerto #23 in A, K.488 (both Mozart). (Canada) 2-St Laurent Studio YSL T-556, Live Performances, 11 / 1 Aug., 1959, Salzburg. Transfers by Yves St Laurent.
"Sir Clifford Curzon, the world-renowned British pianist, was an immensely popular musical figure in Britain. Sir Clifford was knighted in 1977, recognition of a musical lifetime that made him, in the words of a tribute yesterday by the music critic of THE DAILY TELEGRAPH in London, 'the leading British pianist of his generation'. And as early as 1947, Noel Strauss of THE NEW YORK TIMES said that 'Curzon must be reckoned among the greatest keyboard artists of the time'.
Clifford Curzon made his debut in the United States with a recital at Town Hall in New York City on Feb. 26, 1939. THE NEW YORK TIMES critic said that the performance established the 31-year-old pianist as 'an artist of prime importance, a supreme colorist with an impeccable virtuoso technique'. On that same first tour, he played three concertos with the New York Philharmonic under Alexander Smallens at Carnegie Hall, and THE TIMES hailed Mr. Curzon for his 'superior musicianship, polished technique and sure grasp of style'.
One of Sir Clifford's last appearances in the United States was with the Philadelphia Orchestra under Eugene Ormandy on May 2, 1978. Harold C. Schonberg, then chief music critic of THE NEW YORK TIMES, wrote of the pianist's performance of Mozart's Piano Concerto #24 in c minor: 'The performance had logic, strength and integrity. The strength was manifest not in outsized dynamics but in the way a phrase uncoiled, inevitably finding its way into the total structure of the piece. This kind of tensile strength, so necessary in Mozart, is the secret of only a few living musicians'.
Sir Clifford's repertory was both broad and eclectic. It included more than 50 concertos and ranged from early classics to contemporary works. While critics may have differed over his uniform command of this vast body of music, they generally agreed that few artists could match him in total performance and in the superbly high level of artistry he offered his listeners. Among his most enthusiastic American fans was Virgil Thomson, the composer and the longtime music critic of THE NEW YORK HERALD TRIBUNE. Mr. Thomson considered Mr. Curzon 'the most satisfactory interpreter' of the piano's Romantic repertory, and he once wrote that 'certainly no one brings to life Schubert and Schumann with quite the delicacy and the grandeur of Mr. Curzon'. And remarking on Mr. Curzon's performance of Beethoven's Fourth Piano Concerto with the Cleveland Orchestra under George Szell in February 1950, Mr. Thomson wrote that the pianist's 'tender grace and grand perspective of expression all made his rendering both a message and a monument'.
Olin Downs, the late music critic for THE NEW YORK TIMES, wrote many laudatory notices of Mr. Curzon's performances, but he summed up his appreciation of his artistry in a review of a recital featuring the works of Mozart, Schubert and Schumann in Town Hall in January 1950: 'He is indeed a musician among musicians, whose sense of style is partly the result of his exceptional knowledge of his art, but is more the result of that intuition which far surpasses in its penetrating truthfulness any book learning or wise exercises that a healthy mind needs'.
Mr. Curzon was born in London on May 18, 1907, the son of Michael Curzon, an antiques dealer, and the former Constance Young. Neither of them was a musician but both were music lovers and young Clifford began the serious study of the piano when he was 6 years old, after abandoning the violin. He chose the piano, he said later, 'because you can be alone with a piano'. The prodigiously talented student went on to train with Britain's leading teachers and later with the world's greatest masters, Artur Schnabel in Berlin and Wanda Landowska and Nadia Boulanger in Paris. He entered the Royal Academy of Music in London at the age of 12 and established himself as a star pupil by winning two scholarships and virtually all the prizes open to pianists. He made his first public appearance in London when he was 16, soon began teaching at the Royal Academy and was a full professor at 19. Mr. Curzon suspended his career as a concert artist in 1928 to study with Artur Schnabel in Berlin. While there, he met Lucille Wallace, a harpsichord student from Chicago. They were married in Paris in July 1931, and they often played duets and discussed the relative merits of the piano and the harpsichord in recital halls and on BBC programs. Mrs. Curzon died in 1977.
Mr. Curzon toured the Continent with leading European orchestras in the 1930s and appeared at many British music festivals. After his debut in Town Hall in 1939, Mr. Curzon returned to the United States in 1948 and performed here frequently until 1970, both in recitals and under such conductors as Bruno Walter, George Szell, Eugene Ormandy and Mr. Smallens."
- Walter H. Waggoner, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 4 Sept., 1982
“One of the great unsung conductors of the middle twentieth century, Rudolf Kempe enjoyed a strong reputation in England but never quite achieved the international acclaim that he might have had with more aggressive management, promotion, and recording. Not well enough known to be a celebrity but too widely respected to count as a cult figure, Kempe is perhaps best remembered as a connoisseur's conductor, one valued for his strong creative temperament rather than for any personal mystique. He studied oboe as a child, performed with the Dortmund Opera, and, in 1929, barely out of his teens, he became first oboist of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra. His conducting début came in 1936, at the Leipzig Opera; this performance of Lortzing's DER WILDSCHÜTZ was so successful that the Leipzig Opera hired him as a répétiteur. Kempe served in the German army during World War II, but much of his duty was out of the line of fire; in 1942 he was assigned to a music post at the Chemnitz Opera. After the war, untainted by Nazi activities, he returned to Chemnitz as director of the opera (1945-1948), and then moved on to the Weimar National Theater (1948-1949). From 1949 to 1953 he served as general music director of the Staatskapelle Dresden, East Germany's finest orchestra. He then moved to the identical position at the Bavarian State Opera in Munich, 1952-1954, succeeding the young and upwardly mobile Georg Solti. During this period he was also making guest appearances outside of Germany, mainly in opera: in Vienna (1951), at Covent Garden (1953), and at the Metropolitan Opera (1954), to mention only the highlights. Although he conducted Wagner extensively, especially at Covent Garden, Kempe did not make his Bayreuth début until 1960. As an opera conductor he was greatly concerned with balance and texture, and singers particularly appreciated his efforts on their behalf. Kempe made a great impression in England, and in 1960 Sir Thomas Beecham named him associate conductor of London's Royal Philharmonic. Kempe became the orchestra's principal conductor upon Beecham's death the following year, and, after the orchestra was reorganized, served as its artistic director from 1963 to 1975. He was also the chief conductor of the Zürich Tonhalle Orchestra from 1965 to 1972, and of the Munich Philharmonic from 1967 until his death in 1976. During the last year of his life he also entered into a close association with the BBC Symphony Orchestra. Interpretively, Kempe was something of a German Beecham. He was at his best -- lively, incisive, warm, expressive, but never even remotely self-indulgent -- in the Austro-Germanic and Czech repertory. Opera lovers prize his versions of LOHENGRIN, DIE MEISTERSINGER, and ARIADNE AUF NAXOS. His greatest recorded legacy, accomplished during the last four or five years of his life, was the multi-volume EMI set of the orchestral works and concertos of Richard Strauss, performed with the highly idiomatic Dresden Staatskapelle. These recordings were only intermittently available outside of Europe in the LP days, but in the 1990s EMI issued them on nine compact discs.”
- James Reel, Rovi
“Rudolf Kempe’s relationship with the Royal Philarmonic was always harmonious, and it was almost a predictable reaction of critics to say that the orchestra was transformed when Kempe was at the helm. Since 1967 he had also been musical director of the Munich Philharmonic.
His readings, both in the concert hall and opera house, were notable for their long span and for their textural clarity. His RING, for instance, developed from a comparatively lightweight beginning towards the immense climax of GOTTERDAMMERUNG. Similarly, as his records show, in works such as Strauss' ‘Heldenleben’, or his ‘Alpine’ Symphony, balance and an overall view are all. As he once put it : ‘If you are always at the climactic point, you can have nothing held in reserve’. He achieved his ends by a clear, taut, unfussy beat, so often favourably remarked upon by those stiff taskmasters, orchestra players. If you could not always count on him for the most electrifying performance of a given work, by the same token he would never let you down by giving an inferior or lacklustre interpretation….among London's opera and concert publics…his rapport was unshakable.”
- Michael Rhodes, THE LONDON TIMES, 13 May, 1976
“With the end of the war Solti was appointed musical director of the Bavarian State Opera in Munich in 1946. In normal circumstances this prestigious post would have been an unthinkable appointment for a young and inexperienced conductor, but the leading German conductors such as Wilhelm Furtwängler, Clemens Krauss and Herbert von Karajan were prohibited from conducting pending the conclusion of denazification proceedings against them. Under Solti's direction, the company rebuilt its repertoire and began to recover its pre-war eminence. He benefited from the encouragement of the elderly Richard Strauss, in whose presence he conducted DER ROSENKAVALIER. In 1961 he became musical director of the Covent Garden Opera Company, London. During his ten-year tenure, he introduced changes that raised standards to the highest international levels. Under his musical directorship the status of the company was recognised with the grant of the title ‘the Royal Opera’.”
- Zillah D. Akron