Wilhelm Kempff (1895–1991), one of the great piano masters, receives an exceptional tribute from the label with which he was most closely associated. This is a beautiful, limited-edition 35-CD box of Kempff’s complete solo repertoire on DG and Decca Classics. It includes the stereo Beethoven sonata cycle, the Schubert sonata cycle, generous anthologies of Bach, Brahms, Liszt, Schubert, and Schumann – plus Chopin and Baroque. There are many rarities, not readily available at present.
This disc presents one of the 20th century's greatest and most distinctive pianists in music of two pianist-composers, Schumann and Beethoven, who were among his most treasured specialties. The playing is fluent, brilliant without ever being flashy, and phrased and accented with a totally unique flavor. Kempff has power to spare, but he uses it with a restraint that heightens its impact.
Menuhin and Kempff seem in just about total agreement about how to play these sonatas: with enough attack to project their dramatic moments in a domestic context, and with enough repose to show their lyrical moments in the very best of lights.
Maria João Pires “shapes and colours every phrase, and with immaculate taste, and she makes sure the phrases end as eloquently as they begin,” wrote Gramophone in 1974. “She conveys not just the details but the relevance of every note to the whole … Best of all, she communicates everything she has discovered about the music, and it is worth having.” This Portuguese pupil of Wilhelm Kempff, Pires was one of the artists who defined the Erato label in the 1970s and 1980s. This 5-CD box gathers together the recordings she made over the period from 1976 to 1985 and it reflects the consistent focus of her repertoire, with its special emphasis on Austro-German composers of the Classical and early-Romantic periods. Embracing solo works, piano duets and concertos, it contains works by Mozart, Schumann, Beethoven, but also by Bach and Chopin.