P1407. WILHELM KEMPFF: Brahms, Schumann & Schubert. (England) BBC Legends Stereo 4114, Live Performances, 3 Nov., 1969 & 17 Sept., 1972, both Queen Elizabeth Hall, London. Long out-of-print, Final Sealed Copy! - 684911411423
“To the best of my knowledge, this release is the first live Wilhelm Kempff recital to appear on CD. It’s a beauty. The intimate warmth and boundless color we know from Kempff’s best studio recordings simply blossom in the concert hall, with a little help from the BBC engineer’s sympathetic microphone placement. The piano keys seem sculpted rather than struck as Kempff dictates musical paragraphs that play down consonants in favor of vowels in all varieties.
Where do we begin to catalog all the pianistic and musical miracles here? Savor, for instance, the Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue’s hauntingly-scaled dynamics or the airy rumination throughout Beethoven’s Op. 54 Sonata (mellower in articulation than the pianist’s crisp, buoyant mono DG version). Annotator Bryce Morrison likens the unison passages in the finale of Schubert’s quirky, rarely heard f minor sonata (D. 625) to those in Chopin’s b-flat minor. To my ears, they’re cut from the same cloth as Beethoven’s ‘Appassionata’: certainly via Kempff’s intense, harmonically aware performance.
You might miss the brio and dynamism others often bring to the three Klavierstucke D. 946, yet Kempff’s bottomless well of nuances rivet your attention. In Schubert’s G-flat and A-flat Impromptus, Kempff interweaves shimmering, hammerless arpeggios with artlessly spun melodic lines that make you believe that the piano has lungs. In sum, this is one of BBC Legends’ most significant and cherishable releases.”
- Jed Distler, ClassicsToday.com