P0994. WILHELM KEMPFF, Vol.I: Sonata #2 in a, Op.2, #2, recorded 1940; Hammerklavier Sonata #29 in B-flat, Op.106, recorded 1936 (both Beethoven). (Canada) St Laurent Studio YSL 78-011. Transfers by Yves St Laurent.
gWilhelm Kempff played to Busoni, heard Eugen dfAlbert (one of Lisztfs greatest pupils), and his own teacher, Heinrich Barth, and had been a prize pupil of Hans von Bülow, Lisztfs son-in-law. Kempff wrote about dfAlbert and Busoni in detail in his autobiography. These two great pianists, both of whom transcribed Bachfs organ chorale preludes for solo piano, were important musical influences for Kempff. Eugen dfAlbert was the first pianist about whom Kempff wrote in his autobiography.
Kempff attended a concert with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, where dfAlbert played Beethovenfs eEmperorf Concerto and Lisztfs Piano Concerto #1. Kempff wrote about the night he listened to dfAlbertfs performance: eFor this was no mere piano playing, but rather a creator who seemed to be creating a whole new world, a world built of tonesf. After the concert Kempff encountered dfAlbert and had a personal conversation with him about piano technique. DfAlbert told Kempff that the piano technique must ebe joined with the soul and fused into an inseparable unionf. The second musical figure that Kempff identifies in his autobiography as an important influence is Ferruccio Busoni. Kempff wrote that the reason why Busoni was a great Bach transcriber was because of Busonifs sublime spirituality. In Kempfffs private lessons with Busoni, Busoni discussed many aspects of performing piano transcriptions of Bachfs organ works, such as the voicing of the cantus firmus and the various ways of handling texture. Kempff wrote about this experience: e[Busoni says] our organ [piano] has only one keyboard, but it can sound like it has many manuals! I am even such a heretic that I believe that most of Bachfs chorale preludes sound better on our contemporary piano than they do on the organc he [Busoni] brought the chorale eNow, Good Christian Men Rejoicef to life. I [Kempff] donft say that he eplayedf, because it was much more than that. I was hearing three voices becoming a unified whole,c As Busoni ended the chorale, the boy [Kempff] nodded very quietly. He had understood.cf
In 1924 when Kempff was twenty-nine years old, he was appointed the director of the Württembergische Hochschule für Musik in Stuttgart. He also taught piano classes and conducted his own compositions from 1924-1929. In addition, Kempff also implemented a new department for church music. Kempfffs work with his piano class at the Wurttemberg Conservatory was highly successful from the very beginning. The friendly and relaxed relationship with his students was a precursor for the way he would later conduct his summer courses, first in Potsdam, and after World War II, in Positano. After his directorship at the conservatory in Stuttgart, Kempff began teaching and directing the summer courses for piano in Potsdam, Deutsches Musikinstitut für Ausländer-Sommerkurse in Potsdam. The summer courses allowed him to teach advanced students from around the world. In the summer course Kempff worked with colleagues such as Edwin Fischer, Eugen DfAlbert, Leonid Kreutzer, and Walter Gieseking as well as other musicians.
During the next decades Mr. Kempff made concert tours of Germany, Scandinavia, South America and Japan. He rode on the Graf Zeppelin to Buenos Aires in 1934 for a tour; the dirigible received extensive press coverage and was met by a crowd estimated in the millions. Kempfffs debut in England was 17 June, 1935 at the Aeolian Hall in London performing a recital with the violinist Cecilia Hansen. During World War II, he performed mostly in Germany and occupied countries by the Germans. He returned to the Paris concert stage 22 November, 1948 and to London 27 October, 1951 at Wigmore Hall. His American debut happened during the later years of his life when he gave a recital in Carnegie Hall 15 October, 1964.
In 1957 he began to direct Beethoven courses at Positano, Italy, and maintained a home there thereafter. Until late in life, he regularly offered informal advice to young musicians who would visit him at his home. His last recital was given in Holzhausen, Germany 31 July, 1982. He had suffered from Parkinsonfs disease in his last years and died on 23 May, 1991 at his home in Positano, Italy. He was 95 years old.
The most unusual thing about Kempff is that there is, indeed, nothing usual about him. It is not surprising that more or less all our encounters with his recordings have consistently range from delightful to unforgettable. Innocence, we suspect, was not the clue to Kempfffs success. He did not achieve these small miracles just by riding around on the winds of inspiration. Or if indeed innocence is the answer, it is innocence hard won.h
- Michael Waiblinger
Each of these disks, from Canadian engineer Yves St Laurent� [feature] St Laurent's natural transfer � made without filtering, like all his dubbings � it is easy to listen to, despite the surface noise.�
- Tully Potter, CLASSICAL RECORD QUARTERLY, Summer, 2011