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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    



FREDDY KEMPF PLAYS CHOPIN
Frederic CHOPIN: Four Ballades: G minor, Op.23, F major, Op.38, A flat major, Op.47, F minor, Op.52; Grande Polonaise, Op.22; Polonaise-fantasie, Op.61; Fantasie-impromptu, Op.66
Freddy Kempf
recorded in July 2000 at Nybrokajen 11, Stockholm
BIS CD 1160 [61.28]

 


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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.


Marc Bridle


See also review by Grace Barber

Interview with Freddy Kempf


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