A brave decision on
Freddy Kempf's part to record these
three core Sonatas at such an early
age. The three most popular 'nicknamed'
sonatas have long been a favourite LP
programme but surely in the age of CD/SACD
and 80-plus minute playing times a minimum
of one more could have been added?.
63 minutes is too short).
First, this is a simply
lovely piano recording with real depth.
It ranks with the best in this respect.
As for Kempf, however, he has surely
come to put this music down too early
in his career, so what in effect we
have is a memento of how they stand
now – he may well re-record this repertoire
later. Expensive for the collector,
though, to accept such limitations.
it is the earliest sonata that suits
him best, a young man playing a young
man's music. Kempf played this sonata
in a Wigmore lunchtime in December 2003
I remain unconvinced
by Kempf's 'pedal trick' in the opening
bars - designed to simulate a sforzando
- yet his allegro con brio is dynamic,
exciting and absolutely devoid of technical
problems. Kempf's articulation is clean
and frequently attractively pearly.
All the ingredients are there, and he
stirs the mix with gusto. He does the
repeat, arrestingly taking in the slow
introduction a second time.
The famous slow movement
(Adagio cantabile) speaks of waters
that while calm and still are not necessarily
more than ankle-deep. In keeping with
this, the 'laughing' left-hand staccato
at 3'05ff works well. The right-hand
legato is less forced than it was at
the Wigmore. If the finale is fairly
dramatic, the ending disappoints. Far
from being a dismissive gesture, Kempf
seems unsure what to do with it.
The C sharp minor's
first movement poses the problem of
over-familiarity. Kempf is fairly tranquil,
but does not transport at least this
listener to anywhere. Traces of literalism
may or may not be an intentional distancing.
Things improve as the sonata goes on,
however, with a nice rhythmic spring
to the middle movement and a finale
that refuses to run away with itself
- the eternal temptation here. In fact
this finale is the first (really the
only) triumph of the disc, well-shaped
Finally the 'Appassionata'.
Like Kempf's Chopin (Review
), this is on the way there, real work
in progress, but exciting to experience
nonetheless. There is a fine sense of
ebb and flow to the first movement,
although the outbursts around 6'10-25
emerge as stop-start. It is the slow
movement that is the acid test, and
Kempf does seem to rush the Theme somewhat.
Indeed, this movement is rather dull
(plonky) of attack and, dare I say it,
rather boring in Kempf's hands. The
moment of balm at 3'12 is here acceptable,
no more – certainly not a shaft of consolation,
and Kempf can even seem laboured (c.4'50-55).
The repeated chords that begin the finale
are not the 'launch pad' they can be;
the accelerando into the coda is a forced,
painted-on addition rather than arising
out of the natural internal impulse
of the music.
values, including interesting notes
by Jean-Pascal Vachon, do not make up
for deficiencies in the actual substance
of the disc.