Wilhelm Kempff   -  Brahms & Schumann  (BBC Legends 4085)
Item# P0101
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Wilhelm Kempff   -  Brahms & Schumann  (BBC Legends 4085)
P0101. WILHELM KEMPFF: Sonata #3 in f (Brahms); Fantasie in C; Carnaval - Papillons (both Schumann). (England) BBC Legends Stereo 4085, Live Performance, 3 Nov., 1969, Queen Elizabeth Hall, London. Long out-of-print, Final Copy! - 684911408522


“Hot on the heels of Wilhelm Kempff’s 1958 live Salzburg performances of the Brahms f minor Sonata and Schumann C major Fantasy on Orfeo comes the same artist and the same works 11 years later in concert in London at Queen Elizabeth Hall, and recorded by the BBC. What’s the difference? The BBC archival sound, for one, accurately captures the pianist’s warm, multi-hued sonority and subtle powers of projection in contrast to Orfeo’s close-up, slightly abrasive pickup. Secondly, at age 74 Kempff commands a firmer grasp of the music’s daunting technical demands than he did at Salzburg. Cases in point: cleaner, more fluid octave playing in the Brahms first movement and a coda in the finale that’s calmly under control. True, Kempff takes the Scherzo’s outer sections with more caution than in his mono DG studio recording, but his long sense of line and spellbinding gradations of touch in the Trio are worth the BBC disc’s asking price.

Kempff proves more cavalier toward the repeats in Schumann’s ‘Papillons’ compared to his studio version, yet he compensates with more whimsical characterzation and rubato, insidious transitions between movements, and playful inner voice activity. Listen, for instance, to how his left hand speaks in #11, or hear the light-hearted snap of dotted rhythms in Nos. 14 and 16. By contrast, no significant interpretive differences mark the present live Schumann Fantasy compared to Kempff’s classic stereo DG traversal. Perhaps the concert hall ambience colors the pianist’s tone in softer jells than DG’s more revealing miking. Without ever sounding labored or technically compromised, Kempff plays down the middle movement’s obsessive rhythms in order to stress Schumann’s polyphonic interplay and mellow poetry, and gorgeously projects the outer movements’ songful lyricism. The London audience appears to be concentrating as hard as the pianist. All Kempff fans will want to hear this release.”

- Jed Distler, ClassicsToday.com