Wilhelm Kempff, born 1895 remains to this day one of the most important pianists of the 20th century, recording over an impressive period of 60 years. Deutsche Grammophon has now set out to unearth the enormous treasure trove of recordings that accumulated over this long period of time and will release in October 2020, the “Wilhelm Kempff Edition”, a magnificently equipped 80-album box set which celebrates the legacy the pianist has left. Curated in four sections in presents the entire range of his work. The recordings are supplemented by a 160-page booklet, which contains many original photos and new information on Wilhelm Kempff’s oeuvre.
The Concerto Recordings chapter features 14CD’s and includes the five Beethoven piano concerto’s in three different recordings, Schumann’s piano concerto, the first Brahms concerto, Liszt’s first and several piano concertos by Mozart. The fact that Kempff was also in demand as a chamber musician is made clear by his choice of musical partners in that field, including Wolfgang Schneiderhan and Yehudi Menuhin for the Beethoven sonatas for violin and piano, or Pierre Fournier, with whom he recorded not only the cello sonatas but also the piano trios, together with Henryk Szeryng. The extensive chapter of his solo recordings (46 CDs) includes works by Bach, Brahms, Chopin, Handel, Liszt, Mozart and Schumann, as well as the two complete Beethoven sonata cycles from 1951–56 and 1964–65, and the recording of all Schubert sonatas.
A very special chapter within the Kempff Edition is the early shellac recordings, made between 1920 and 1941. Already on these recordings, the “singing on the keyboard” so typical for Kempff becomes clear. Between 1925 and 1941 he made his first attempt to record Beethoven’s sonata cycle. All of these recordings were made at 78 speed. The “Schellac” chapter is more than just a carefully reworked, yet exciting sound document of a lost recording art. It is, like the whole box, the testimony and artistic legacy of a pianist who throughout his life was far from mimicking the virtuoso or the “Beethoven artist”.
Available for pre-order now exclusively in the DG store.