Paul van Kempen, Pt. 5. Polydor, Telefunken, Philips 78s

This will probably be the last post devoted to Paul van Kempen’s 78 era recordings, but there are still quite a few that I do not have access to. However, this is now the tenth Cd I have filled with these rarities, most of which have not seen modern reissue.

At first, I had overlooked the fact that there were two different versions of Liszt’s Les Préludes, since they shared the same Polydor catalog numbers, despite being recorded five years apart, and with different orchestras. Even though I have already presented the BPO version, I have included it once again in a new transfer from a better copy. I really can’t decide which one I like better. The Dresden recording is perhaps more advanced sonically, but the Berlin one captures the orchestra with a beautifully blended sound. The BPO features superior orchestral playing in most respects, but the Dresden group, by this point, is able to provide van Kempen with every musical nuance that he demands. In both versions, the big brass statement is thrilling in dynamic shaping, featuring strong attacks followed by subito pianos to make room for new crescendi, a strategy evoking Mengelberg in spirit (if not letter: Mengelberg doesn’t do this exactly, but of course, his 1929 recording contains ample thrills, and remains, arguably, the most personal, distinctive Les Préludes on records!).

What a shame van Kempen didn’t record more Sibelius! We have to make do with two versions of No. 5 (studio and live), and this fairly unknown version of No. 7. As with the 5th, he is not shy about imprinting his deeply personal shape on the work. Some of the tempi REALLY move along (at 16’19”, I’m pretty sure this is the quickest version on record), testing the skills of the Hilversum group, which is no Concertgebouworkest, but responds very well to van Kempen’s demanding ideas. Give this one a second listen, if the first is disorienting…I think you’ll be rewarded with the sheer warmth and passion of this unique interpretation. By the way, these 1950 Hilversum Telefunken sessions also include a Mahler 4th Symphony, which is extremely rare. If anyone has this, I would love to hear from you!

Liszt: Les Préludes
Polydor 67174/75 (matr. 751/54 1/2 GS1)
Berlin Philharmonic
December 22, 1937

Liszt: Les Préludes
Polydor 67174/75 (matr. 1803/06 1/2 GS 9)
Dresden Philharmonic
April 15, 1942

Pfitzner: Das Käthchen von Heilbronn, incidental music, Op 17: Overture
Polydor 15241/42a (matr. 792/94 GO 9)
Dresden Philharmonic
June 18, 1943 (this date is listed in Michael Gray’s discography included in one of the Tahra van Kempen releases, but the copy I transfered is stamped with a date of 1939)

Sibelius: Symphony No. 7 in C Major, Op. 105
Telefunken SK 66026/27 (matr. 035779/82)
Hilversum Radio Filharmonisch Orkest
Recorded May 11, 1950

Offenbach: Barcarolle (from The Tales of Hoffmann)
Verdi: Miserere (from Il Trovatore)
Philips N 11176 G (matr. AA 11176.1/2 G)
Hilversum Radio Filharmonisch Orkest
Gré Brouwenstijn, soprano (both works)
Lidy van der Veen, mezzo soprano (Offenbach)
Franz Vroons, tenor (Verdi)

Leoncavallo: Intermezzo (from I Pagliacci)
Mascagni: Intermezzo (from Cavalleria Rusticana)
Philips N 12011 G (matr. AA 12011.1/2 G)
Hilversum Radio Filharmonisch Orkest
Recorded between January 15 & April 14, 1951 (both Philips 78s)

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One Response to Paul van Kempen, Pt. 5. Polydor, Telefunken, Philips 78s

  1. Just wanted to express my very belated thanks for posting the van Kempen material — and for keeping it up for those of us who didn’t catch it at the outset. I’ve found a very high proportion of his recordings to be of exceptional interest — only the Beethoven and Schubert 8ths have disappointed. So … thanks!!

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