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Beethoven: Complete Piano Sonatas / Wilhelm Kempff

Beethoven / Kempff,Wilhelm
Release Date: 11/18/2008 
Label:  Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog #: 4777958   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Wilhelm Kempff
Number of Discs: 8 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Import   
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Since his death at 95 in 1991, Wilhelm Kempff’s standing among the great pianists of his time seems stronger than ever. This is largely due to the fact that the bulk of his sizeable discography has been reissued on CD, augmented by numerous live broadcasts and concert material. As with many pianists of the German School, Kempff made Beethoven a specialty, and recorded multiple versions of the sonatas and concertos. He recorded most of the piano sonatas during the 78 rpm era, several of them more than once. In the early 1950s Kempff taped all 32 sonatas for Deustche Grammophon. Stereo remakes of the “Moonlight”, “Pathétique” and “Appassionata” followed in 1960. Finally in 1964 and 1965 Kempff set down the entire cycle anew in stereo. Read more

Although Kempff afficionados often vouch for the mono set’s superiority (understandably so, in certain respects), the stereo versions hold equal distinction and retain their reference status. Unlike many Beethoven interpreters active in the 1930s and ’40s who were touched in some way by Artur Schnabel’s influential literalism, Kempff’s more subjective and intimate style retained many vestiges of German Romanticism, as borne out by many of the 78 rpm versions. When the LP era arrived, however, Kempff had modified his Beethoven style toward greater expressive economy and steadier overall tempos.

On the surface, Kempff’s clipped articulation might seem dainty and even salon-like, yet his strong linear awareness, specificity of inflection, and sharply biting fortissimos are thoroughly Beethovenian (sound clip). You especially perceive this in the earlier sonatas, from the Op. 2 triumvirate through the little Op. 49 pair, as well as in Kempff’s astringent Op. 101 and gracefully pointed Op. 81a, Op. 90, and Op. 110 performances. Moreover, the variety with which Kempff shapes staccato phrases, and his subtle use of pedal to imbue a modulation, a transition, or a particularly lovely theme with just the right dab of color, can be awe inspiring. But much of Kempff’s magic can go over your head if you don’t meet him halfway. His Beethoven sonatas are amazingly detailed line drawings and watercolors; they are not big oil canvases that you can casually grasp from a distance.

While Kempff’s perceptive yet admittedly small-scaled readings of Op. 31 Nos. 2 and 3, Op. 111, plus the Waldstein, Appassionata, and Hammerklavier hardly represent the last word in brio and dynamism, illuminating accents and points of balance offer insightful compensation. It also should be noted that Kempff was cavalier about repeats, observing some yet disregarding others.

DG’s 2008 remastering reveals marginally more presence compared alongside the label’s 1991 and 1997 CD incarnations (the latter was part of the label’s Complete Beethoven Edition). Yet the differences are so slight that one need not upgrade. Most importantly, Kempff’s approach to Beethoven fuses substance and integrity with inimitable individuality, and reveals something new with each rehearing. It grows on you–and within you, in the long run. If you care about Beethoven’s sonatas, give Kempff a chance.

-- Jed Distler, ClassicsToday.com
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Works on This Recording

1.
Sonata for Piano no 1 in F minor, Op. 2 no 1 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Wilhelm Kempff (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1793-1795; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 11/1964 
Venue:  Beethoven-Saal, Hannover, Germany 
2.
Sonata for Piano no 2 in A major, Op. 2 no 2 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Wilhelm Kempff (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1794-1795; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 11/1964 
Venue:  Beethoven-Saal, Hannover, Germany 
3.
Sonata for Piano no 3 in C major, Op. 2 no 3 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Wilhelm Kempff (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1794-1795; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 11/1964 
Venue:  Beethoven-Saal, Hannover, Germany 
4.
Sonata for Piano no 4 in E flat major, Op. 7 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Wilhelm Kempff (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1796-1797; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 11/1964 
Venue:  Beethoven-Saal, Hannover, Germany 
5.
Sonata for Piano no 5 in C minor, Op. 10 no 1 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Wilhelm Kempff (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1795-1797; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 11/1964 
Venue:  Beethoven-Saal, Hannover, Germany 
6.
Sonata for Piano no 6 in F major, Op. 10 no 2 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Wilhelm Kempff (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1796-1797; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 11/1964 
Venue:  Beethoven-Saal, Hannover, Germany 
7.
Sonata for Piano no 7 in D major, Op. 10 no 3 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Wilhelm Kempff (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1797-1798; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 11/1964 
Venue:  Beethoven-Saal, Hannover, Germany 
8.
Sonata for Piano no 8 in C minor, Op. 13 "Pathétique" by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Wilhelm Kempff (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1797-1798; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 01/1965 
Venue:  Beethoven-Saal, Hannover, Germany 
9.
Sonata for Piano no 9 in E major, Op. 14 no 1 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Wilhelm Kempff (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1798; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 11/1964 
Venue:  Beethoven-Saal, Hannover, Germany 
10.
Sonata for Piano no 10 in G major, Op. 14 no 2 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Wilhelm Kempff (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1799; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 11/1964 
Venue:  Beethoven-Saal, Hannover, Germany 
11.
Sonata for Piano no 11 in B flat major, Op. 22 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Wilhelm Kempff (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1800; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 01/1965 
Venue:  Beethoven-Saal, Hannover, Germany 
12.
Sonata for Piano no 12 in A flat major, Op. 26 "Funeral March" by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Wilhelm Kempff (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1800-1801; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 11/1964 
Venue:  Beethoven-Saal, Hannover, Germany 
13.
Sonata for Piano no 13 in E flat major, Op. 27 no 1 "Quasi una fantasia" by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Wilhelm Kempff (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1800-1801; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 01/1965 
Venue:  Beethoven-Saal, Hannover, Germany 
14.
Sonata for Piano no 14 in C sharp minor, Op. 27 no 2 "Moonlight" by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Wilhelm Kempff (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1801; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 01/1965 
Venue:  Beethoven-Saal, Hannover, Germany 
15.
Sonata for Piano no 15 in D major, Op. 28 "Pastoral" by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Wilhelm Kempff (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1801; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 01/1965 
Venue:  Beethoven-Saal, Hannover, Germany 
16.
Sonata for Piano no 16 in G major, Op. 31 no 1 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Wilhelm Kempff (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1802; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 09/1964 
Venue:  Beethoven-Saal, Hannover, Germany 
17.
Sonata for Piano no 17 in D minor, Op. 31 no 2 "Tempest" by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Wilhelm Kempff (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1802; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 09/1964 
Venue:  Beethoven-Saal, Hannover, Germany 
18.
Sonata for Piano no 18 in E flat major, Op. 31 no 3 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Wilhelm Kempff (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1802; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 09/1964 
Venue:  Beethoven-Saal, Hannover, Germany 
19.
Sonata for Piano no 19 in G minor, Op. 49 no 1 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Wilhelm Kempff (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1797; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 11/1964 
Venue:  Beethoven-Saal, Hannover, Germany 
20.
Sonata for Piano no 20 in G major, Op. 49 no 2 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Wilhelm Kempff (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1796; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 11/1964 
Venue:  Beethoven-Saal, Hannover, Germany 
21.
Sonata for Piano no 21 in C major, Op. 53 "Waldstein" by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Wilhelm Kempff (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1803-1804; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 09/1964 
Venue:  Beethoven-Saal, Hannover, Germany 
22.
Sonata for Piano no 22 in F major, Op. 54 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Wilhelm Kempff (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1804; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 09/1964 
Venue:  Beethoven-Saal, Hannover, Germany 
23.
Sonata for Piano no 23 in F minor, Op. 57 "Appassionata" by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Wilhelm Kempff (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1804-1805; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 09/1964 
Venue:  Beethoven-Saal, Hannover, Germany 
24.
Sonata for Piano no 24 in F sharp major, Op. 78 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Wilhelm Kempff (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1809; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 01/1965 
Venue:  Beethoven-Saal, Hannover, Germany 
25.
Sonata for Piano no 25 in G major, Op. 79 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Wilhelm Kempff (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1809; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 09/1964 
Venue:  Beethoven-Saal, Hannover, Germany 
26.
Sonata for Piano no 26 in E flat major, Op. 81a "Les Adieux" by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Wilhelm Kempff (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1809-1810; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 09/1964 
Venue:  Beethoven-Saal, Hannover, Germany 
27.
Sonata for Piano no 27 in E minor, Op. 90 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Wilhelm Kempff (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1814; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 01/1965 
Venue:  Beethoven-Saal, Hannover, Germany 
28.
Sonata for Piano no 28 in A major, Op. 101 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Wilhelm Kempff (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1816; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 09/1964 
Venue:  Beethoven-Saal, Hannover, Germany 
29.
Sonata for Piano no 29 in B flat major, Op. 106 "Hammerklavier" by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Wilhelm Kempff (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1817-1818; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 01/1964 
Venue:  Beethoven-Saal, Hannover, Germany 
30.
Sonata for Piano no 30 in E major, Op. 109 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Wilhelm Kempff (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1820; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 01/1964 
Venue:  Beethoven-Saal, Hannover, Germany 
31.
Sonata for Piano no 31 in A flat major, Op. 110 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Wilhelm Kempff (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1821-1822; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 01/1964 
Venue:  Beethoven-Saal, Hannover, Germany 
32.
Sonata for Piano no 32 in C minor, Op. 111 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Wilhelm Kempff (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1821-1822; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 01/1964 
Venue:  Beethoven-Saal, Hannover, Germany 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  2 Customer Reviews )
 Years in waiting. June 7, 2012 By L. Labra (Oakland, CA) See All My Reviews "I was very young when I wanted these CDs. All my piano-students-friends, knew about the incredible interpretation of Wilhelm Kempff, but at that time we could not afforded. So after forty-five years, the expectation is over, there are no words to describe WK interpretation, you have to hear him and hopefully enjoy this recording as much as I did.

"
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 A superior value, musically and financially December 16, 2011 By T. Drake (South Euclid, OH) See All My Reviews "Beethoven's piano sonatas were one of humanity's great achievements. They have been recorded in toto by numerous pianists including Artur Schnabel, Alfred Brendel, Richard Goode, and Claudio Arrau - and nearly every pianist of note has recorded at least a few of the most popular sonatas. What makes the Kempff set work best for me is the lack of a dogmatic, cookie-cutter approach to the music. Kempff approaches each piece as a masterwork in its own right. The tempos are more sensible than those adopted by many other pianists, particularly in the slower movements. For example, in the Hammerklavier Sonata, most pianists cannot resist the urge to play the Adagio almost as a Largo - ignoring the fact that such a tempo would have made the movement incomprehensible on a piano of Beethoven's time, which had a quick tonal decay. Speaking of tone, Kempff has an especially beautiful sound - a product of his training by the 19th century master Henrich Barth. The phrasing is more flexible than today's "red light, green light" stop and go approach, and Kempff, unlike so many of today's pianists (notably Andras Schiff), never lets musical point making get in the way of the big picture, structually. Although Kempff was getting along in years when these recordings were made - the 1960s - he is fully up to the technical hurdles these sonatas contain. But Kempff was never one for heaven storming bravura, so those familiar with the "Appassionata" Sonata may be disappointed by Kempff's clear headed approach to the final movement. For that particular piece, I much prefer Richter's RCA recording. As a counterweight, Kempff was especially in tune with Beethoven's humor, and Op. 2, No. 3, Op. 10, No. 2, and Op. 31, Nos. 1 & 3 are exceptionally on point here. Offered at bargain price, this is one of the best values in Beethoven's music available." Report Abuse
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