This disc together with its BIS Beethoven
companion (CD1120) are fastidiously played and Kempf's Chopin displays
some miraculous technique. This is however still a young man’s first
recordings of repertoire to which he will return with greater insight
in future years.
Kempf's Chopin is more balletic than profound. There
is a nimbleness to the finger work which reminds one of a well disciplined
cavalry. Indeed, these are quite extrovert performances, with the music
unfolding almost without the pointed emphasis Chopin sometimes needs.
There is a boldness to his phrasing. The G minor Ballade is tinctured
with an operatic tone, for example. That said, the rubato never seems
deliberately manufactured. This is an admirably straightforward performance
that breathes as naturally as the human voice. Indeed, the readings
of the Ballades strike me as thoughtful and naturally played, if perhaps
without the volatility one might have expected from Kempf. The Op.22
and Op.61 performances have the same transcendentalism that Horowitz
brought to these works. The finger work is as clean as a whistle – every
note in place, every bar crystalline. If ultimately he lacks Horowitz’s
poetry, or Wilhelm Kempff’s fluency, these are still formidable performances
high on inspiration and big on concentration.
This disc is never less than fascinating. It shows
a young tiger with an absolute command of the keyboard. Don’t assume
that this is the last word on Chopin – or Kempf.
also review by Grace Barber
with Freddy Kempf