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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Piano Sonata No.11 in A, K331 Alla Turca (1781-3) [22:55]
Fantasia in D minor, K397 (1787) [5:40]
Fantasia in C minor, K475 (1785) [13:01]
Piano Sonata No.8 in A minor, K310 (1778) [15:52]
Wilhelm Kempff (piano)
rec. UFA-Studio Berlin, January 1962. ADD
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 477 590 7 [57:51]

 

Wilhelm Kempff was a great pianist: possibly one of the finest in the twentieth century. The Philips Great Pianists series devoted three volumes of double discs to him. Interestly there was very little Mozart among what was a splendid collection. There is a single disc on DG of him playing concertos. This has always been well regarded but I’ve not come across a disc of solo music before. Here we have a re-issue from 1962 which I cannot see has previously been out on CD or reviewed. To be frank I didn’t warm to Kempff’s style here; he’s a marvellous Beethoven player. Sadly this isn’t Ludwig but Wolfgang!

The two sonatas are among Mozart’s most loved. K331 starts with a lovely set of variations which were orchestrated by Reger. Kempff’s style was off-putting and he was little better in the slow movement. The Alla Turca finale sounds as if Kempff was battering the piano into submission! To get the kind of Mozart I prefer, I turned to Eschenbach on a great value 5 CD collection (DG 463 137) and found his simpler style simply more Mozartian.This is after all music of a 25 year old. To over-intellectualise this music is at the risk of missing the point.

K310 is a lovely piece and my favourite version is Dinu Lipatti, mono but superb, from 1950 (EMI Classics 566988-2). This is a beautiful sonata and one I know very well. Here Kempff is over-fussy and misses the charm of this piece. He adds unnecessary touches to the work.

Kempff plays the two other pieces well, although not enough to save the disc. The later Fantasy K475 is a deeper work than the sonatas and perhaps he’s more temprementally suited to it. It does have a Beethovenian maturity and I enjoyed this performance much more than the others.I suppose some fans of the great man will be tempted by this performance but the majority should turn to the wide range of choices available.

The remastering has produced an over bright sound and maybe this doesn’t help these works. The cover boasts a positive view from the famed “Penguin Guide” which refers to the LP’s. I’m sad not to be more positive as I greatly enjoy Kempff in Beethoven and Schubert but Mozart didn’t take up much of his discography and I think this disc tells us why. One to admire but not love and I don’t think that this re-issue justifies its “Original” status.

David R Dunsmore

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