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Busoni, Rachmaninov, Ravel, Stravinsky / Freddy Kempf

Kempf,Freddy
Release Date: 03/29/2011 
Label:  Bis   Catalog #: 1810  
Composer:  Ferruccio BusoniSergei RachmaninovMaurice RavelIgor Stravinsky,   ... 
Performer:  Freddy Kempf
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Multi 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

A perfect vehicle to showcase Freddy Kempf’s talents as a virtuoso pianist.

This recital of late 19th and early 20th Century masterpieces provides a perfect vehicle to showcase Freddy Kempf’s talents as a virtuoso pianist. The first two in the recital are adapted for the piano from the violin repertoire, while the third is a homage to the waltzes of Schubert and the fourth an adaptation by Stravinsky of three movements from his own ballet.

Rachmaninov uses the famous ‘Follia’ as the theme for the variations, a Spanish dance which Corelli used as the subject of the last of his Op. 5 violin sonatas which is itself a set of variations. Kempf is fully on top of the considerable technical demands and his tone
Read more and phrasing are immaculate throughout. He chooses to bring out the distinctive character of each of the individual variations. This allows him to deploy a wide range of tone colours, textures and tempi but this detracts from the overall architecture of the piece and sense of cohesion. I particularly liked the first two variations where Kempf nicely brings out the rich pianistic textures and syncopated rhythms and the quicksilver and capricious variations 6 and 7 where Kempf unleashes a virtuoso firestorm. The intermezzo and variations 14 and 15 provide a pastoral interlude. Kempf makes the most of this with some really rather lovely lyrical and expressive playing. In variations 16-20 he picks up the pace again and concludes the set with virtuoso aplomb.

Many great pianists from past and present have played Busoni’s transcription of Bach’s great violin chaconne, including Rubinstein, Grimaud and Kissin but it is probably Michelangeli’s performance which sets the benchmark. Once again Kempf is fully on top of the technical demands and some of the passage-work is really quite stunning. However, the beginning of the piece seemed rather episodic and lacked a sense of the music unfolding organically. Kempf, for all his technical brilliance, cannot quite match Michelangeli’s grandeur and searing intensity in this work.

Ravel’s ‘Valses nobles et sentimentales’ is probably the least overtly virtuosic of the works on this disc. I thought Kempf’s performance was exceptionally fine. Once again he deploys a wide range of tone colour to bring out the distinctive features of the waltzes, while the phrasing is artful and immaculately judged throughout. Kempf also captures the subtle and nuanced aspects and his playing is full of evocative suggestion, half-lights and shade.

Stravinsky wrote the three movements from Petrouchka for Rubinstein and it is one of the most fiendishly difficult pieces in the whole piano repertoire. Rubinstein was not satisfied with his own performance and never left a recording although Horowitz recorded the Russian Dance and Pollini championed the work. Latterly younger pianists have picked up Stravinsky’s gauntlet including Kissin and Wang. I have to say that Kempf gives Pollini, Kissin and Wang a run for their money as this recording is really quite exceptional.

Kempf takes the opening Russian Dance at a very fast pace and I was struck by his rhythmically incisive playing and his lightness of touch in these very dense textures. The intricate ornamentation and passage-work of the second dance are crisply and deftly articulated, and he uses the tone colours and rapidly changing rhythms to evoke the drama of the ballet. The third dance is nothing short of spectacular as Kempf uses every device in the pianist’s lexicon to suggest the festivities of the Shrove-Tide Fair. The handling of the extremely demanding writing work is really quite stunning.

-- Robert Beattie, MusicWeb International
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Works on This Recording

1. Chaconne for Piano in D minor (after Bach, BWV 1004), K B24 by Ferruccio Busoni
Performer:  Freddy Kempf (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: ?1897 
2. Variations on a theme of Corelli, Op. 42 by Sergei Rachmaninov
Performer:  Freddy Kempf (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1931; USA 
3. Valses nobles et sentimentales by Maurice Ravel
Performer:  Freddy Kempf (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1911; France 
4. Pétrouchka: Three movements for Piano by Igor Stravinsky
Performer:  Freddy Kempf (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1921; France 

Sound Samples

Variations on a Theme of Corelli, Op. 42: Theme: Andante
Variations on a Theme of Corelli, Op. 42: Variation 1: Poco piu mosso
Variations on a Theme of Corelli, Op. 42: Variation 2: L'istesso tempo
Variations on a Theme of Corelli, Op. 42: Variation 3: Tempo di menuetto
Variations on a Theme of Corelli, Op. 42: Variation 4: Andante
Variations on a Theme of Corelli, Op. 42: Variation 5: Allegro (ma non tanto)
Variations on a Theme of Corelli, Op. 42: Variation 6: L'istesso tempo
Variations on a Theme of Corelli, Op. 42: Variation 7: Vivace
Variations on a Theme of Corelli, Op. 42: Variation 8: Adagio misterioso
Variations on a Theme of Corelli, Op. 42: Variation 9: Un poco piu mosso
Variations on a Theme of Corelli, Op. 42: Variation 10: Allegro scherzando
Variations on a Theme of Corelli, Op. 42: Variation 11: Allegro vivace
Variations on a Theme of Corelli, Op. 42: Variation 12: L'istesso tempo
Variations on a Theme of Corelli, Op. 42: Variation 13: Agitato
Variations on a Theme of Corelli, Op. 42: Intermezzo
Variations on a Theme of Corelli, Op. 42: Variation 14: Andante (come prima)
Variations on a Theme of Corelli, Op. 42: Variation 15: L'istesso tempo
Variations on a Theme of Corelli, Op. 42: Variation 16: Allegro vivace
Variations on a Theme of Corelli, Op. 42: Variation 17: Meno mosso
Variations on a Theme of Corelli, Op. 42: Variation 18: Allegro con brio
Variations on a Theme of Corelli, Op. 42: Variation 19: Piu mosso, Agitato
Variations on a Theme of Corelli, Op. 42: Variation 20: Piu mosso
Variations on a Theme of Corelli, Op. 42: Coda: Andante
Violin Partita No. 2 in D minor, BWV 1004 (arr. F. Busoni): Violin Partita No. 2 in D minor, BWV 1004: V. Chaconne (arr. F. Busoni)
Valses nobles et sentimentales (version for piano): I. Modere, tres franc
Valses nobles et sentimentales (version for piano): II. Assez lent, avec une expression intense
Valses nobles et sentimentales (version for piano): III. Modere
Valses nobles et sentimentales (version for piano): IV. Assez anime
Valses nobles et sentimentales (version for piano): V. Presque lent, dans un sentiment intime
Valses nobles et sentimentales (version for piano): VI. Vif
Valses nobles et sentimentales (version for piano): VII. Moins vif
Valses nobles et sentimentales (version for piano): VIII. Epilogue: Lent
3 Movements from Petrushka: No. 1. Danse russe (Russian Dance)
3 Movements from Petrushka: No. 2. Chez Petrouchka (Petrushka's Cell)
3 Movements from Petrushka: No. 3. La semaine grasse (The Shrove-tide Fair)

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