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Schubert: The Piano Sonatas / Wilhelm Kempff


Release Date: 10/10/2000 
Label:  Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog #: 463766   Spars Code: ADD 
Composer:  Franz Schubert
Performer:  Wilhelm Kempff
Number of Discs: 7 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 7 Hours 41 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews


Deutsche Grammophon repackages Wilhelm Kempff's classic Schubert sonata cycle in a space-saving box, and slashes the cost down to budget price. In addition, the performances have been sonically upgraded. An A/B comparison between DG's previous edition and the present remastering reveals Kempff's magical, intimate sonority to take on newfound robustness and detail. You can better ascertain Kempff's sparse and subtle pedaling, and there seems to be more air between the notes. These improvements reinforce the pianist's innate stylistic grasp and unpressured authority in this music.

Kempff's virtuosity is very real, yet never draws attention to itself. He approaches Schubert not so much as
Read more a two-handed pianist as a one-man chamber ensemble, or a seasoned lieder singer backed by a sensitive accompanist. There are, of course, a wealth of great individual Schubert Sonata interpretations that differ from, and even surpass Kempff's individual readings. But if you love the Schubert Sonatas, your life will be poorer for not knowing Kempff's irreplaceable recordings.
--Jed Distler, ClassicsToday.com

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This budget-price DG box is an impressive reminder of Kempff’s subtle pianistic expression of Schubert’s inner world

Schubert’s piano sonatas remained uncharted territory for an embarrassingly long time. Rachmaninov did not know of their existence, and their unique character and vision was usually obscured by lazy assumptions and cliches (their lack of conventional form, their ‘heavenly length’, their touching Viennese lightness and lyricism). Since those dark times a wealth of great pianists have come forward to give them their due, led by such pioneering spirits as Schnabel, Edward Erdmann and Kempff. Of these, Kempff holds a unique place and DG’s immaculate reissue of virtually all the sonatas is worth its weight in gold. No other pianist has communicated Schubert with a greater sense of his final transcendence of earthly pain and travail. For Kempff the sonatas are an exploration of ‘the immeasurable depths of Schubert’s soul, offering nothing for the out and out virtuoso and everything for those who find solace in music freed from all material concerns’. These words are revealing and characteristic of a blessedly controversial genius whose play of light and shade and poetic charisma colour every page, whether freely experimental or ideally structured.

For some his otherworldliness makes him insufficiently bold or confrontational in, say, the elemental uproar at the heart of the Andantino from the A major Sonata. Again, there are those for whom Kempff’s tempo and manner in the Scherzo from the same sonata are tricky, even salonish, and for whom his understatement at the start of the G major Sonata, D894, or his subduing of the storms in the early A minor Sonata, D537, are unconvincing alternatives to more obviously eloquent and robust performances. He is far less trenchant or speculative than, say, Gilels in the D major Sonata, D850, and yet invariably his range of colour and nuance erase even a lingering sense of Gemutlichkeit, of great music played down to domestic proportions. The first movement of the B flat Sonata is surely among the most subtle and haunting of all Schubert interpretations, the sing-a-song-of-sixpence finale of the D major Sonata a marvel of teasing wit and inwardness. Also, the writer who found the A major Sonata, D664, ‘full of the smiling lights and colours of a spring day’ must surely have heard Kempff play. Even as you long, overall, for a higher degree of drama and intensity, you are simultaneously made aware of a pianist who brought an Apollonian grace to even the fiercest Dionysian pages of Beethoven and who, arguably, found his truest voice in Schubert.

Kempff’s tonal sheen and translucence, his magical elixir, remain unique in the history of piano playing. You may feel that Edith Vogel’s claim that ‘Schubert is like Beethoven in heaven’ is a trifle one-sided, but her view is certainly confirmed by Wilhelm Kempff.

Bryce Morrison, Gramophone [12/2000]
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Works on This Recording

1.
Sonata for Piano in B flat major, D 960 by Franz Schubert
Performer:  Wilhelm Kempff (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1828; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 01/1967 
Venue:  Beethoven Hall, Hannover, Germany 
Length: 43 Minutes 16 Secs. 
2.
Sonata for Piano in E major, D 459 [fragment]: 1st movement by Franz Schubert
Performer:  Wilhelm Kempff (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: ?1816; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 01/1969 
Venue:  Beethoven Hall, Hannover, Germany 
Length: 6 Minutes 2 Secs. 
3.
Sonata for Piano in E major, D 459 [fragment]: 2nd movement by Franz Schubert
Performer:  Wilhelm Kempff (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: ?1816; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 01/1969 
Venue:  Beethoven Hall, Hannover, Germany 
Length: 4 Minutes 58 Secs. 
4.
Klavierstücke (5), D 459a: no 3 in C major by Franz Schubert
Performer:  Wilhelm Kempff (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Date of Recording: 01/1969 
Venue:  Beethoven Hall, Hannover, Germany 
Length: 5 Minutes 30 Secs. 
5.
Klavierstücke (5), D 459a: no 4 in A major by Franz Schubert
Performer:  Wilhelm Kempff (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Date of Recording: 01/1969 
Venue:  Beethoven Hall, Hannover, Germany 
Length: 3 Minutes 45 Secs. 
6.
Klavierstücke (5), D 459a: no 5 in E major by Franz Schubert
Performer:  Wilhelm Kempff (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Date of Recording: 01/1969 
Venue:  Beethoven Hall, Hannover, Germany 
Length: 7 Minutes 34 Secs. 
7.
Sonata for Piano in C minor, D 958 by Franz Schubert
Performer:  Wilhelm Kempff (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1828; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 11/1968 
Venue:  Beethoven Hall, Hannover, Germany 
Length: 29 Minutes 50 Secs. 
8.
Sonata for Piano in A major, D 959 by Franz Schubert
Performer:  Wilhelm Kempff (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1828; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 01/1968 
Venue:  Beethoven Hall, Hannover, Germany 
Length: 35 Minutes 38 Secs. 
9.
Sonata for Piano in G major, D 894/Op. 78 by Franz Schubert
Performer:  Wilhelm Kempff (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1826; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 02/1965 
Venue:  Beethoven Hall, Hannover, Germany 
Length: 30 Minutes 44 Secs. 
10.
Sonata for Piano in D major, D 850/Op. 53 "Gasteiner" by Franz Schubert
Performer:  Wilhelm Kempff (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1825; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 08/1968 
Venue:  Beethoven Hall, Hannover, Germany 
Length: 39 Minutes 1 Secs. 
11.
Sonata for Piano in A minor, D 845/Op. 42 by Franz Schubert
Performer:  Wilhelm Kempff (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1825; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 02/1965 
Venue:  Beethoven Hall, Hannover, Germany 
Length: 29 Minutes 5 Secs. 
12.
Sonata for Piano in C major, D 840 "Reliquie" by Franz Schubert
Performer:  Wilhelm Kempff (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1825; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 01/1967 
Venue:  Beethoven Hall, Hannover, Germany 
Length: 23 Minutes 21 Secs. 
13.
Sonata for Piano in A minor, D 784/Op. 143 by Franz Schubert
Performer:  Wilhelm Kempff (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1823; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 01/1968 
Venue:  Beethoven Hall, Hannover, Germany 
Length: 18 Minutes 24 Secs. 
14.
Sonata for Piano in A major, D 664/Op. 120 by Franz Schubert
Performer:  Wilhelm Kempff (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1819/1825; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 01/1967 
Venue:  Beethoven Hall, Hannover, Germany 
Length: 20 Minutes 30 Secs. 
15.
Sonata for Piano in F minor, D 625 [fragment] by Franz Schubert
Performer:  Wilhelm Kempff (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1818; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 01/1969 
Venue:  Beethoven Hall, Hannover, Germany 
Length: 22 Minutes 19 Secs. 
16.
Sonata for Piano in B major, D 575/Op. posth by Franz Schubert
Performer:  Wilhelm Kempff (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1817; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 11/1968 
Venue:  Beethoven Hall, Hannover, Germany 
Length: 24 Minutes 47 Secs. 
17.
Sonata for Piano in E flat major, D 568/Op. posth 122 by Franz Schubert
Performer:  Wilhelm Kempff (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1817; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 08/1968 
Venue:  Beethoven Hall, Hannover, Germany 
Length: 28 Minutes 43 Secs. 
18.
Sonata for Piano in A flat major, D 557 "Sonatine" by Franz Schubert
Performer:  Wilhelm Kempff (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1817; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 11/1968 
Venue:  Beethoven Hall, Hannover, Germany 
Length: 11 Minutes 53 Secs. 
19.
Sonata for Piano in E minor, D 566 by Franz Schubert
Performer:  Wilhelm Kempff (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1817; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 11/1968 
Venue:  Beethoven Hall, Hannover, Germany 
Length: 16 Minutes 4 Secs. 
20.
Sonata for Piano in A minor, D 537/Op. 164 by Franz Schubert
Performer:  Wilhelm Kempff (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1817; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 08/1968 
Venue:  Beethoven Hall, Hannover, Germany 
Length: 18 Minutes 13 Secs. 
21.
Sonata for Piano in C major, D 279 [fragment] by Franz Schubert
Performer:  Wilhelm Kempff (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1815; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 11/1968 
Venue:  Beethoven Hall, Hannover, Germany 
Length: 18 Minutes 32 Secs. 
22.
Sonata for Piano in E major, D 157 by Franz Schubert
Performer:  Wilhelm Kempff (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1815; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 08/1968 
Venue:  Beethoven Hall, Hannover, Germany 
Length: 19 Minutes 38 Secs. 

Featured Sound Samples

Piano Sonata in C, D 279: II. Andante
Piano Sonata in A, D 664: III. Allegro
Piano Sonata in A minor, D 784: III. Allegro vivace

Sound Samples

Piano Sonata No.21 In B Flat, D.960: 1. Molto moderato
Piano Sonata No.21 In B Flat, D.960: 2. Andante sostenuto
Piano Sonata No.21 In B Flat, D.960: 3. Scherzo (Allegro vivace con delicatezza)
Piano Sonata No.21 In B Flat, D.960: 4. Allegro ma non troppo
Piano Sonata No.3 in E, D. 459: 1. Allegro moderato
Piano Sonata No.3 in E, D. 459: 2. Scherzo (Allegro)
Piano Sonata No.3 in E, D. 459: 3. Adagio
Piano Sonata No.3 in E, D. 459: 4. Scherzo con trio (Allegro)
Piano Sonata No.3 in E, D. 459: 5. Allegro patetico
Piano Sonata No.19 in C minor, D.958: 1. Allegro
Piano Sonata No.19 in C minor, D.958: 2. Adagio
Piano Sonata No.19 in C minor, D.958: 3. Menuetto (Allegro)
Piano Sonata No.19 in C minor, D.958: 4. Allegro
Piano Sonata No.20 in A, D.959: 1. Allegro
Piano Sonata No.20 in A, D.959: 2. Andantino
Piano Sonata No.20 in A, D.959: 3. Scherzo (Allegro vivace)
Piano Sonata No.20 in A, D.959: 4. Rondo (Allegretto)

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  1 Customer Review )
 Magisterial account of Schubert January 2, 2013 By David Greetham (Lenox, MA) See All My Reviews "This survey of the Schubert piano sonatas has been authoritative for some time (I have a previous release on LP/vinyl), but it is good to have it in CD format. The transfers have in general been made without sacrificing too much of the high and low ends of the sound palette, and the moments when Kempff gives a full-throated voice to the sonatas are very powerfully presented. At times, the performance may seem a little too "Germanic", even ponderous, compared to the lighter and more detailed versions of later periods, but this is a very honest and brilliantly executed demonstration of the Schubert for whom Kempff was a master." Report Abuse
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