Rudolf Kempe

Biography

Born: June 14, 1910; Niederpoyritz, Saxony   Died: May 12, 1976; Zurich, Switzerland  
One of the great unsung conductors of the middle twentieth century, Rudolf Kempe enjoyed a strong reputation in England but never quite achieved the international acclaim that he might have had with more aggressive management, promotion, and recording. Not well enough known to be a celebrity but too widely respected to count as a cult figure, Kempe is perhaps best remembered as a connoisseur's conductor, one valued for his strong creative Read more temperament rather than for any personal mystique.

He studied oboe as a child, performed with the Dortmund Opera, and, in 1929, barely out of his teens, he became first oboist of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra. His conducting debut came in 1936, at the Leipzig Opera; this performance of Lortzing's Der Wildschütz was so successful that the Leipzig Opera hired him as a répétiteur. Kempe served in the German army during World War II, but much of his duty was out of the line of fire; in 1942 he was assigned to a music post at the Chemnitz Opera. After the war, untainted by Nazi activities, he returned to Chemnitz as director of the opera (1945-1948), and then moved on to the Weimar National Theater (1948-1949). From 1949 to 1953 he served as general music director of the Staatskapelle Dresden, East Germany's finest orchestra. He then moved to the identical position at the Bavarian State Opera in Munich, 1952-1954, succeeding the young and upwardly mobile Georg Solti. During this period he was also making guest appearances outside of Germany, mainly in opera: in Vienna (1951), at London's Covent Garden (1953), and at New York's Metropolitan Opera (1954), to mention only the highlights. Although he conducted Wagner extensively, especially at Covent Garden, Kempe did not make his Bayreuth debut until 1960. As an opera conductor he was greatly concerned with balance and texture, and singers particularly appreciated his efforts on their behalf.

Kempe made a great impression in England, and in 1960 Sir Thomas Beecham named him associate conductor of London's Royal Philharmonic. Kempe became the orchestra's principal conductor upon Beecham's death the following year, and, after the orchestra was reorganized, served as its artistic director from 1963 to 1975. He was also the chief conductor of the Zurich Tonhalle Orchestra from 1965 to 1972, and of the Munich Philharmonic from 1967 until his death in 1976. During the last year of his life he also entered into a close association with the BBC Symphony Orchestra.

Interpretively, Kempe was something of a German Beecham. He was at his best -- lively, incisive, warm, expressive, but never even remotely self-indulgent -- in the Austro-Germanic and Czech repertory. Opera lovers prize his versions of Lohengrin, Die Meistersinger, and Ariadne auf Naxos. His greatest recorded legacy, accomplished during the last four or five years of his life, was the multi-volume EMI set of the orchestral works and concertos of Richard Strauss, performed with the highly idiomatic Dresden Staatskapelle. These recordings were only intermittently available outside of Europe in the LP days, but in the 1990s EMI issued them on nine compact discs. Read less
Browse 1-25 of 127 Available Recordings
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  • 1.
    40 Most Beautiful Classical Pieces
    Label: Warner Classics   Catalog: 556099 Release Date: 06/17/2016   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Maurice Ravel,  Johann Strauss Jr.,  Marc-Antoine Charpentier,  Johann Sebastian Bach  ... 
    Performer:  Samson François,  Maria Tipo,  Martha Argerich,  Dmitri Alexeev  ... 
    Conductor:  Nikolaus Harnoncourt,  William Christie,  John E. Gardiner,  David Zinman  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Les Arts Florissants,  Emmanuelle Haďm (Conductor/Harpsichord),  Le Concert D'Astrée  ... 
    CD: $12.99
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  • 2.
    Discover Symphonic Music
    Label: Berlin Classics   Catalog: 0300718 Release Date: 05/27/2016   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Bedrich Smetana,  Maurice Ravel,  Sir Edward Elgar,  Antonín Dvorák  ... 
    Conductor:  Václav Neumann,  Günther Herbig,  Rolf Kleinert,  Otmar Suitner  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra,  Berlin Symphony Orchestra,  Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra  ... 
    CD: $11.99
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  • 3.
    Bamberg Symphony: The First 70 Years
    Label: Dg Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog: 002474902 Release Date: 04/29/2016   Number of Discs: 17
    Composer:  Bedrich Smetana,  Antonín Dvorák,  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart,  Ludwig van Beethoven  ... 
    Performer:  Wilhelm Kempff,  Carl Seemann,  Pilar Lorengar,  Gottlob Frick  ... 
    Conductor:  Joseph Keilberth,  Fritz Lehmann,  Ferdinand Leitner,  Richard Krauss  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bamberg Symphony Orchestra
    CD: $52.99
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  • 4.
    Yehudi: The Art of Menuhin
    Label: Warner Classics   Catalog: 554924 Release Date: 04/08/2016   Number of Discs: 3
    Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach,  Antonio Vivaldi,  Giovanni Battista Viotti,  Ludwig van Beethoven  ... 
    Performer:  Yehudi Menuhin,  Paul Cocker,  Hephzibah Menuhin,  Louis Kentner  ... 
    Conductor:  Alberto Lysy,  Wilhelm Furtwängler,  Efrem Kurtz,  Sir Adrian Boult  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bath Festival Orchestra,  Robert Masters Chamber Orchestra,  Camerata Lysy  ... 
    CD: $14.99
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  • 5.
    The Decca Sound [Repackaged Edition]
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 002434502 Release Date: 01/29/2016   Number of Discs: 50
    Composer:  Manuel de Falla,  Claude Debussy,  Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov,  Enrique Granados  ... 
    Performer:  Teresa Berganza,  Alfredo Campoli,  Vladimir Ashkenazy,  Cecilia Bartoli  ... 
    Conductor:  Ernest Ansermet,  Ataulfo Argenta,  Anatole Fistoulari,  Vladimir Ashkenazy  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Suisse Romande Orchestra,  London Symphony Orchestra,  Philharmonia Orchestra  ... 
    CD: $181.49
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  • 6.
    Wagner: Lohengrin / Kempe, Grummer, Ludwig, Fischer-Dieskau
    Label: Warner Classics   Catalog: 554009 Release Date: 01/29/2016   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Richard Wagner
    Performer:  Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau,  Christa Ludwig,  Jess Thomas,  Elisabeth Grümmer
    Conductor:  Rudolf Kempe
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna State Opera Chorus,  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
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    CD: $22.99
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  • 7.
    100 Best Film Classics [warner Classics]
    Label: Warner Classics   Catalog: 553645 Release Date: 01/08/2016   Number of Discs: 6
    Composer:  Alfred Newman,  Richard Strauss,  John T. Williams,  Richard Wagner  ... 
    Performer:  Ernest Blanc,  Nicolai Gedda,  Gary Hoffman,  Gérard Caussé  ... 
    Conductor:  Paul Bateman,  Rudolf Kempe,  Geoff Love,  Mariss Jansons  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ensemble Jean-Marie Leclair,  The Hungarian Quartet,  Il Giardino Armonico  ... 
    CD: $18.99
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  • 8.
    50 Most Beautiful Classical Pieces
    Label: Warner Classics   Catalog: 553009 Release Date: 11/13/2015   Number of Discs: 3
    Composer:  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart,  Ludwig van Beethoven,  Johann Sebastian Bach,  Antonio Vivaldi  ... 
    Performer:  Christian Zacharias,  Nicolai Gedda,  Kerstin [Mezzo-soprano Vocal] Meyer,  Gré Brouwenstijn  ... 
    Conductor:  David Zinman,  André Cluytens,  David Fray,  Fabio Biondi  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Europa Galante,  Les Arts Florissants,  Concentus Musicus Wien
    CD: $18.99
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  • 9.
    Pfitzner: Palestrina / Kempe, Madeira, Lorenz, Soderstrom, Berry
    Label: Walhall   Catalog: 241 Release Date: 01/13/2015   Number of Discs: 3
    Composer:  Hans Pfitzner
    Performer:  Elisabeth Söderström,  Max Lorenz,  Jean Madeira,  Walter Berry  ... 
    Conductor:  Rudolf Kempe
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
    CD: $14.99
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  • 10.
    Kyung Wha Chung - Complete Decca Recordings [19 CDs & 1 DVD]
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 002217700 Release Date: 01/06/2015   Number of Discs: 20
    Composer:  Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky,  Felix Mendelssohn,  Jean Sibelius,  Fritz Kreisler  ... 
    Performer:  Kyung-Wha Chung,  Phillip Moll,  Radu Lupu,  Myung-Wha Chung  ... 
    Conductor:  Charles Dutoit,  André Previn,  Rudolf Kempe,  Sir Georg Solti  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Montreal Symphony Orchestra,  London Symphony Orchestra,  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra  ... 
    CD: $68.99
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  • 11.
    Great Performances Recorded Live at Covent Garden 1955-1997
    Label: Opus Arte   Catalog: 9024 Release Date: 09/30/2014   Number of Discs: 32
    Composer:  Giuseppe Verdi,  Giacomo Puccini,  Gaetano Donizetti,  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart  ... 
    Performer:  Marian Nowakowski,  Michael Langdon,  Raymond Nilsson,  Otakar Kraus  ... 
    Conductor:  Rafael Kubelik,  Sir Alexander Gibson,  Rudolf Kempe,  Carlo Maria Giulini  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Opera House Covent Garden Orchestra,  Royal Opera House Covent Garden Chorus
    CD: $118.99
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  • 12.
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 002050402 Release Date: 05/27/2014   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Leos Janácek,  Zoltán Kodály
    Performer:  Wolfgang Schöne,  Teresa Kubiak,  Robert Tear,  John Birch  ... 
    Conductor:  Rudolf Kempe,  Laszlo Heltay
    CD: $6.99
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  • 13.
    Brahms: Complete Edition
    Label: Brilliant Classics   Catalog: 94860 Release Date: 04/29/2014   Number of Discs: 58
    Composer:  Johannes Brahms
    Performer:  Daniel Barenboim,  Cécile Ousset,  Yehudi Menuhin,  Emmy Verhey  ... 
    Conductor:  Jaap Van Zweden,  Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos,  Günther Herbig,  Heinz Bongartz  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra,  Radio Philharmonic Orchestra,  London Symphony Orchestra  ... 
    Recommendation
    CD: $128.99
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  • 14.
    Strauss: Complete Orchestral Works / Kempe, Dresden Staatskapelle
    Label: Warner Classics   Catalog: 3178025 Release Date: 01/14/2014   Number of Discs: 9
    Composer:  Richard Strauss
    Performer:  Paul Tortelier,  Max Rostal,  Ulf Hoelscher,  Peter Damm  ... 
    Conductor:  Rudolf Kempe
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Dresden Staatskapelle
    Recommendation
    CD: $32.49
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  • 15.
    Strauss: The Great Operas
    Label: Warner Classics   Catalog: 3179923 Release Date: 01/14/2014   Number of Discs: 22
    Composer:  Richard Strauss
    Performer:  Gerd Nienstedt,  José Van Dam,  Agnes Baltsa,  Horst Nitsche  ... 
    Conductor:  Herbert von Karajan,  Wolfgang Sawallisch,  Rudolf Kempe,  Marek Janowski  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra,  Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra,  Bavarian Radio Chorus  ... 
    On sale! $110.98
    CD: $84.49
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  • 16.
    Brahms: Symphony No 2; Wagner: Tannhauser Overture / Kempe
    Label: Ica Classics   Catalog: 5119 Release Date: 11/19/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Johannes Brahms,  Richard Wagner
    Conductor:  Rudolf Kempe
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bamberg Symphony Orchestra,  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
    DVD: $24.99
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  • 17.
    Mahler: Symphony No 4; Wagner: Parsifal Prelude; Mendelssohn: Ruy Blas Overture / Kempe
    Label: Ica Classics   Catalog: 5117 Release Date: 11/19/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Gustav Mahler,  Richard Wagner,  Felix Mendelssohn
    Conductor:  Rudolf Kempe
    Recommendation
    CD: $17.99
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  • 18.
    Great Pianists - Legendary Recordings from Arrau, Cherkassky, Cziffra, Gilels, Katchen
    Label: Ica Classics   Catalog: 5114 Release Date: 10/29/2013   Number of Discs: 5
    Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven,  Frédéric Chopin,  Johannes Brahms,  Franz Liszt  ... 
    Performer:  Emil Gilels,  Claudio Arrau,  Julius Katchen,  György Cziffra  ... 
    Conductor:  Sir Adrian Boult,  Christoph von Dohnányi,  Otto Klemperer,  Rudolf Kempe  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  New Philharmonic Orchestra,  Cologne Radio Symphony Orchestra,  BBC Symphony Orchestra  ... 
    Recommendation
    CD: $44.49
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  • 19.
    Johannes Brahms: Ein Deutsches Requiem
    Label: United Classics   Catalog: 2013007 Release Date: 09/24/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Johannes Brahms
    Conductor:  Rudolf Kempe
    CD: $12.99
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  • 20.
    Richard Wagner: Der Ring Des Nibelungen - Siegfried (Bayreuth, 1962)
    Label: Myto Records   Catalog: 325 Release Date: 05/28/2013   Number of Discs: 3
    Composer:  Richard Wagner
    Performer:  Erich Klaus
    Conductor:  Rudolf Kempe
    CD: $12.99
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  • 21.
    Wagner: Das Rheingold
    Label: Myto Records   Catalog: 323 Release Date: 05/28/2013   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Richard Wagner
    Performer:  Grace Hoffman,  Gerhard Stolze,  Otakar Kraus,  Erich Klaus  ... 
    Conductor:  Rudolf Kempe
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bayreuth Festival Orchestra
    CD: $9.99
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  • 22.
    Wagner: Der Ring Des Nibelungen - Die Walkure (Bayreuth, 1962)
    Label: Myto Records   Catalog: 324 Release Date: 05/28/2013   Number of Discs: 3
    Composer:  Richard Wagner
    Conductor:  Rudolf Kempe
    CD: $12.99
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  • 23.
    Rudolf Kempe Conducts Bartok & Strauss - Historical Recordings 1961
    Label: Hänssler Classic   Catalog: 94220 Release Date: 03/26/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Béla Bartók,  Richard Strauss
    Conductor:  Rudolf Kempe
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Southwest German Radio Symphony Orchestra
    CD: $14.99
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  • 24.
    Beethoven: Symphonies Nos. 2 & 4
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 353022 Release Date: 02/12/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven
    Conductor:  Rudolf Kempe
    CD: $7.99
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  • 25.
    Beethoven: Symphonies Nos. 7 & 8
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 322842 Release Date: 01/08/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven
    Conductor:  Rudolf Kempe
    CD: $7.99
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