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LíArt de Paul van Kempen - Volume. I
Franz LISZT (1811-1886)

Les Préludes (Polydor 1937)
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)

Symphony No.8 (Polydor 1940)
Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)

The Hebrides Overture (Philips 1951)
Giacomo ROSSINI (1792-1868)

Guillaume Tell (DGG 1951)
Hector BERLIOZ (1803-1869)

Benvenuto Cellini (DGG 1951)
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)

Piano Concerto No. 2 (DGG 1952)
Adrian Aeschbacher (piano)
Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra/Paul van Kempen
Recorded 1937-52 as noted above
TAHRA TAH 512/513 [61.27 + 55.12]


I reviewed the second of this three-volume tribute to the Dutch-born conductor Paul van Kempen. Iíve now had the chance to catch up with the first, a nicely programmed conspectus with the Berlin Philharmonic. Though he played in the first violins in the Concertgebouw under Mengelberg, van Kempen managed to avoid the older manís musical spectre, certainly in the later years. There are hints of Mengelbergian influence in the Liszt however Ė some strong portamenti and an exciting sense of drive accompanied by a ration of shellac hiss but which, in its turn, is overridden by strong frequency response on the 1937 Polydor. The Beethoven is the meat of the first CD Ė another top quality Polydor, this time from 1940. The performance is superior to his later Philips remake. Here things are fresher, more verdant, more related in fact to the Pastoral if anything Ė thereís a buoyancy thatís very appealing, even if thereís not room for the first movement exposition repeat (it fitted neatly onto six 78 sides). The Mendelssohn is strong and lithe and the Rossini features some delightful wind principals in addition to the fine cellist.

The Berlioz gets a very convincing performance, maybe not quite in Munch or Monteuxís class but nevertheless thoroughly convincing, though the sound is a bit brazen and there are occasional pitch slippages. We end the set with a performance of the Brahms Second Concerto with Adrian Aeschbacher whose wartime broadcast with Furtwängler will be well known by many. In that earlier performance Aeschbacher splashed about unmercifully and the performance frequently veered off the rails. His was not the most adamantine of techniques and it was one that could splinter in the stress of a concert, as indeed it does from time to time with van Kempen Ė this is a studio broadcast from 1952; only the Liszt and Beethoven are commercial recordings, everything else derives from studio broadcast conditions. There are plenty of smudged runs and van Kempenís orchestral handling can be slightly pedantic now and then, though we do get to hear details otherwise submerged, such as the inner voice pizzicati in the opening movement. And in the main van Kempen keeps his sometimes wayward soloist in check. I wish the soloist had varied his voicings with more nuance in the Allegro appassionato. Iíve been listening to the almost contemporaneous Myra Hess/Bruno Walter off-air recording and that, so noble and humane, seems far away sometimes. The cello solo in the slow movement is unusually sentimental in phrasing and tone but the main problem here is pitch slippage on the tape that is quite poor, from about 7.00 onwards. I liked the finale, skittish and animated.

This is another good slice of van Kempenís commercial and studio discography. If Tahra can correct those pitch problems this will stand alongside that second volume of their salute.

Jonathan Woolf

Volume II

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