the last Wigmore Monday lunchtime concert
before Christmas, it was left to the young
Freddy Kempf to do the honours. Mr Kempf obviously
has a fair following, for the house was packed.
Mitsuko Uchida’s stimulating Beethoven Sonatas
over the river at the other end of the weekend
it was interesting to hear Kempf in Beethoven’s
Pathétique Sonata (interestingly,
Kempf has put down the last three Beethoven
Sonatas for BIS – CD1120 – a disc I have yet
to hear). A young man playing a young man’s
music should work well, and indeed sforzati
were given with a verve and dynamism that
spoke clearly of youth. Contrasts were stark,
as black as Kempf’s outfit, the speed of the
allegro fully ‘molto’. Unafraid of dynamic
extremes, this was a performance full of energy.
The ‘Grave’ introduction began with a pianistic
effect, an attempt to simulate a ‘forte-piano’
dynamic marking on an instrument that usually
doesn’t ‘do’ them. It emerged more as a trick
than anything, though. The famously restful
Adagio cantabile was here an ‘Andante poco
cantabile’, with the top line’s legato forced;
it was the finale came off best, stormy, very
busy and with superb articulation.
second part of the recital confirmed Kempf’s
credentials in Chopin’s music. The Twelve
Etudes, Op. 25 began with a slow and languorous
A flat study, which interestingly conjured
up more disquiet than most. In the faster
numbers, there was no doubting Kempf’s prowess.
His articulation was spot-on, although he
overdid the machine-gun delivery of No. 8
in D flat (the etude on parallel sixths).
But there were interpretative holes, the A
minor (No. 4) lacking any depth, and it was
a pity that the contrastive simple statements
that usher in No. 11 in A minor did not throw
the ensuing explosion into relief because
of Kempf’s over-interpretation. The height
of his Op. 25 came with the last, the thicket
of semiquavers that is No. 12 in C minor.
For once the darkness of the chosen key was
realised, over and above any digital dexterity.
a young man (he was born in 1977), Kempf gives
his all to whatever he plays and there is
much to admire. He is not just technique and
nothing else, but there is an overriding impression
that, musically, all has yet to fully gel.
With this in mind, it was a wise choice to
plump for one of the more dynamic of Beethoven’s
early sonatas. I look forward to hearing his
Chopin Etudes (both sets) in another 10-20