Freddy Kempf plays Beethoven

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Freddy Kempf Plays Beethoven

CD is now available at these sites, with track detail.


Beethoven: Piano Sonatas Op.109, 110, 111
Review by Jed Distler

The world is not exactly bereft of recordings of Beethoven's last three piano sonatas.  But when a new edition appears, so beautifully played and perceptively interpreted as Freddy's Kempf's third solo disc for BIS, to say nothing of its splendid recording quality, you don't worry about the back catalogue.

I expect this highly regarded 23-year-old pianist will encounter a 'show me' attitude from seasoned critics who've beard all the great Beethoven players, and man their posts with barbed pencils and dog-eared Urtexts at the ready.  They'll scrutinize Kempf's late Beethoven with a fine-tooth comb, comparing him with Schnabel, Brendel, Goode, Arrau, Solomon and Kempff with two 'f's.  As well they should, for Freddy Kempf more than merely holds his own in such august company.

I wonder if Kempf has lived longest with Sonata No. 30, whose improvisatory opening unfolds in a tellingly proportioned manner.  Even the occasional inverted dynamic sounds convincingly Beethoven-like (a subito piano upbeat to bar 63 rather than a sforzando).  Although he doesn't differentiate Beethoven's legato versus non-legato articulations in the second movement to the extent that Charles Rosen or Annie Fischer do, he compensates with scrupulous and richly coloured chord voicings in the third- movement theme and variations.  The fifth variation's woodwind-like writing is energetically contoured, as are Beethoven's patented long trills.

My only nits to pick with Kempf's songful fluidity throughout the lyrical Op. 110 Sonata are the outsized dynamic contrasts in the Allegro molto's opening measures, which lessen the impact of the first fortissimo just a few bars on.  At the same time Kempf is one of the few pianists who honours left-hand sforzando displacements (bars 9-13) without any weakening of the important right-hand melodic downbeats.  Among modern versions, I'd rate this performance on the same level with Richter's later interpretations and Awadagin Pratt's underrated one on EMI (currently unavailable).

Some may prefer their Op. 111 introduction slower and starker, with more anguish in the rising chain of suspensions, though Kempf's headlong sweep and effortless fingerwork in the Allegro con brio more than compensate. The pianist navigates the Arietta's epic seas on a solid, even keel, but doesn't entirely give himself over to the movement's jazzier abandon and obsessed rhythms.  Still and all, Kempf emerges more than ever on this disc as his own master.  A truly admirable release, highly recommended.

- Jed Distler

====SUNDAY TIMES (UK), June 10, 2001====
Stephen Pettitt

Freddy Kempf, 2001

THIS RECORDING by the Classical Brit award-winning Freddy Kempf of the last three sonatas vies with the best of the recent releases.

Kempf plays a rather aggressive-sounding and closely recorded Yamaha instrument, but his touch has finesse, and he elicits a vast range of colours from the monster.

Perhaps the most demanding passage in the three works is the slow, quiet, transcendent music towards the end of the Arietta of Op 111, where long trills further complicate the already rhythmically complex part-writing.  Kempf's playing here has astonishing clarity.  When the music is brasher, the going outwardly tougher, as in the final Fugue of Op 110, his strength of finger really tells.

But success in these works is not just a matter of technique, and Kempf shows that he has the vision to take us with him all the way on these three extraordinary, still very contemporary journeys.

- Stephen Pettitt

====SUNDAY TELEGRAPH (UK) July 22, 2001====
Classical CDs
Review by Michael Kennedy

Kempf is still only 24 and one may presume, if he follows the precedent of other pianists, that he will record these sonatas several times in the course of his career as his view of them perhaps subtly changes.

Already his interpretations have a rich maturity and are presented here with a particularly beautiful recording of piano tone.   The piano is still the most difficult instrument to record faithfully and the BIS sound engineers have excelled themselves in Stockholm's former Academy of Music.

Kempf's insight into the character of each of these Olympian masterpieces is astonishing and is allied to formidable virtuosity and musicianship.  It is perhaps in Op.110 that he proclaims himself a Beethoven interpreter of the front rank by his judgment of tempo variation and overall command of what is an especially complex and challenging structure.  His playing of the fugal passages is magisterial in its combination of intellectual and emotional pianism.

- Michael Kennedy

(1)  Kreisler arr. by Rachmaninov for piano - Liebesleid  (from live performance) and
(2)  Schumann Warum from live performance

  Photo courtesy of Meridian TV

From GuildMusic
"Another of Kreisler's original pieces for violin and piano, one of a pair (the other being Liebesfreud), is Leibesleid, which sums up the soul of old Vienna - not as a large concert-waltz in the manner of the Strauss dynasty, but as an intimate, gentle reminiscence. It is marked to be played in the style of the Austrian (or German) Lšndler, an old dance in slowish 3/4 time, which many believe was the forerunner of the waltz, with which it shares certain similarities. In any event, Kreisler's delightfully languorous piece, with its evocative and dreamy ending, is a magnificent composition of its type, a perfect gem of the composer's craft."   - Robert Matthew-Walker

    Liebeslied mp3 - streaming or download

    Warum mp3 - streaming or download

CD Availability:  Here are direct links to online CD shops which carry the album, with track detail. Tower promises quick delivery.

Why my Freddy Kempf  pages?

======= Recent articles online =======

May 25, 2000: Interview with Freddy Kempf, by AmazonUK

April 25, 2000: Interview with Freddy Kempf, by Mark Bridle of MusicWeb.

"Meeting Freddy Kempf can be a humbling experience. Not yet 23, he is already well on his way to becoming a pianist of considerable greatness (his new Rachmaninov disc is very fine indeed)..."
    Bridle also does a comparison-review of Kissin and Kempf in recent live performances of Beethoven Concertos.

April 19, 2000: Review of Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 4 in concert, by Geoffrey Norris for The Telegraph.  

"FREDDY KEMPF'S performance of Beethoven's Fourth Piano Concerto in this Royal Philharmonic Orchestra programme was the complete antidote to the austerely manufactured one of the Third Concerto, also at the Barbican, that Evgeny Kissin had given with the Philharmonia a couple of nights earlier. There was a communicative vitality here, a true dialogue between piano and orchestra and an engagingly youthful ardour..."

Freddy Kempf's Schumann CD
Freddy's Rachmaninov CD
His Chopin CD

CD cover illustration: Copyright © Hywel Jones, for BIS
Small encore photo, courtesy of MeridianTV

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