P0010. WILHELM KEMPFF, w.Bernstein Cond. NYPO: Piano Concerto #3 in c -Live Performance, 29 Oct., 1966; WILHELM BACKHAUS, w.Böhm Cond. Vienna Phil.: Piano Concerto #4 in G - Live Performance, 1965 (both Beethoven). Madrigal 202. Very long out-of-print, Final Copy!
“One of the twentieth century's most important pianists, Wilhelm Kempff found warmth in Beethoven where many others discovered only stress and passion. Concentrating on the composers of the late Classical and early-to-middle Romantic periods, Kempff achieved graceful, amiable results while not neglecting the sterner core of this music. His nobility of purpose was everywhere evident, made manifest through lucid textures, an adherence to a flowing legato, and tonal shading. In addition, he was a composer whose oeuvre included two symphonies, four operas, songs, and solo piano works.
In 1914, Kempff traveled to Potsdam for studies at the Viktoriagymnasium before returning to Berlin to finish his work at the Hochschule and enroll at the university. At age 20, Kempff served as organist and pianist on a tour of Germany and Scandinavia by the Berlin Cathedral Choir. A successful 1917 piano recital at the Berlin Singakademie led to an engagement the following year with the Berlin Philharmonic, the first of innumerable collaborations with that august ensemble. During the 1920s and 1930s, he toured South America and Japan, as well as many parts of Europe, adding to his reputation for uncompromising musicianship and personable interpretation. At the same time, he taught, serving first as director at the Stuttgart Musikhochschule from 1924 to 1929 and, later, as piano instructor at Potsdam's Mamorpalais for the decade before WWII. The war kept his activities confined to Germany, but with its end, Kempff once more resumed a busy performance schedule.
England and America heard Kempff only later. In London, the public, including a large number of German émigrés, applauded him upon his first appearance there in 1951. Not until 1964 did New York hear the pianist in person, although by then his many Deutsche Grammophon recordings had already established his stature for Americans. Indeed, Kempff's long and fruitful relationship with that label had brought to the market a long list of desirable recordings, among them the complete Beethoven piano concerti; the sonatas; a relaxed, but rewarding survey with Wolfgang Schneiderhan of the Beethoven violin sonatas; and various collections of Schubert, Schumann, Chopin, and Brahms."
- Erik Eriksson, allmusic.com
"...someone so well versed in the music, so utterly familiar with even the tiniest twist or turn in line or harmony, [Backhaus'] playing sounds like an extension of natural speaking."
- Rob Cowan, GRAMOPHONE, June, 2006
"Wilhelm Backhaus made a concert debut in Leipzig at the age of eight, and studied at the Leipzig Conservatory with Reckendorf. In 1899 he left Leipzig to study with EugÃ¨ne d'Albert in Frankfurt am Main. He made a major debut tour in 1900 and quickly gained a fine reputation as a player and as a teacher. His American debut was on 5 January, 1912, in New York, playing the Beethoven Piano 'Emperor' Concerto with Walter Damrosch and the New York Symphony Orchestra. In 1930 he moved to Lugano and acquired Swiss citizenship. Backhaus established a teaching career there and continued to make concert tours throughout his long life. His last U.S. appearance was in New York in 1962, at age 78; reviews judged that his powers were undiminished. He died on 5 July, 1969, in Villach, Austria, where he had gone to make a concert appearance.
Especially during the later phase of his career he had a remarkably high reputation as a pianist whose devotion to the composer's intentions was total and unselfish. His performances were in the classic line of those that strove to present the music in one broadly viewed arc of concept and logic, embracing not just single movements but entire works. His recorded output ranges from Mozart through the main Classical and Romantic repertoire. It is not surprising that his work was particularly excellent when he encountered those composers who built large-scale, logically constructed classical works, such as Beethoven and Brahms; in reference to his recordings of such works, terms like 'magisterial', 'exemplary', and 'direct' have often been employed by reviewers. Late in his life he came to be regarded as a Beethoven specialist, and he recorded virtually the entire corpus of keyboard works of that master, as well as extensive groups of Brahms and Mozart, and works by Schumann, Grieg, Chopin, and Liszt, including concerti and solo works. He also made some chamber music recordings, notably of Brahms' cello sonatas with Pierre Fournier, and a notable account of the Schubert 'Trout' Quintet."
- Joseph Stevenson, allmusic.com