Wilhelm Kempff, Pt. 3. First Recording & Various Rarities

I promised some more Wilhelm Kempff, and among these offerings is something very special, his first recording (pictured above), from c. 1920. There is an oft repeated story of how, in the Beethoven Bagatelle Kempff struck a wrong note, and then exclaimed “Donnerwetter!”. You CAN hear some faintly audible exclamation at 1:33 when he strikes two notes at once in the bass, but it’s impossible to tell what he actually says.

This 1927 version of Beethoven’s “Waldstein” Sonata is not the (1932) one included in the OOP Dante/Lys series of cds, and I think it’s a wonderfully spontaneous reading, and has that special late 1920’s Polydor piano sound, a bit distant, but full of color and character. There is certainly nothing distant about the sonics on the mid-30’s discs I’ve included here, they are beautifully recorded by any standard. Kempff never re-recorded Aufschwung or Horch, horch, die Lerch.

I’ve included one Lp item, the Brahms Intermezzi, Op. 117. I thought that this version had been issued on cd, but the DG Original Masters set has an earlier, 1950 recording of this set and the Op. 118 as well. I don’t have access to the Op. 118, but the set included does indeed seem to be a different version.

As a bonus, I’ve added a 1921 Arthur De Greef recording of the Grieg Piano Concerto, released on four sides! Yes, it’s very heavily cut, but I think it represents De Greef better than the electrical remake from several years later. Grieg admired and approved of De Greef’s interpretation, which doesn’t mean that it is by any means an “urtext” approach to the score! Interestingly the variants are not all the same compared to the electrical remake.

Beethoven: Bagatelle in C, Op. 33, No. 5
Beethoven: Ecossaisen in Eb, WoO 86.
Polydor 62400 (matr. 2062, 2064 ar)
Recorded c. 1920 (Kempff’s first recording)

Schumann: Aufschwung, No. 2 from “Fantasiestücke” Op. 12
Schubert-Liszt: Horch, horch, die Lerch
Polydor 62746 (matr. 6068 3/4 GR, 6069 1/2 GR)
Recorded 1935

Schubert: Moments Musicaux, D. 870:
No. 4 in C# Minor & No. 3 in F Minor
Polydor 62747 (matr. 6070/71 1/2 GR)
Recorded 1935

Beethoven: Six Variations Op. 76
Schumann: Träumerei, No. 7 from Kinderszenen, Op. 15
Polydor 62762 (matr. 6628 3/4 GR8, 6629 1/2 GR 8)
Recorded 1936

Beethoven: Sonata No. 21 in C Major, Op. 53 “Waldstein”
Polydor 66678/80 (matr. 558/62, 563 1/2 bm)
Recorded 1927

Brahms: Intermezzi, Op. 117 (3)
Decca LX 3134 (transfered from London LS 961)
Recorded November 23 & 26, 1953
(London, Decca West Hampstead Studios)

Grieg: Piano Concerto in A Minor, Op. 16 (abridged)
Arthur De Greef, Piano
Sir Landon Ronald, Conductor
The Royal Albert Hall Orchestra
HMV D 551/52, Victor 55154/55
(matr. Cc 78/81, all 1st take except s. 4, which is tk. 2)
Recorded April 19, 1921


This entry was posted in De Greef, Kempff, Piano. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Wilhelm Kempff, Pt. 3. First Recording & Various Rarities

  1. Sturla says:

    Beautiful playing!

    I enjoy many Kempff’s recordings from the post-war years (his 3rd Beethoven concerto with Leitner, his transcriptions, selected Schubert and Brahms movements etc.). But as he grew old, some of his performances lost the fine rubato and Romantic excitement preserved here.

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