Wilhelm Kempff (1895 – 1991) was one of the most important pianists of the 20th century. He recorded almost exclusively for Deutsche Grammophon throughout his 60-year recording career and a new 80 CD limited edition box set, Wilhelm Kempff Edition, celebrates his incredible legacy. Over 92 hours of performances are curated in four sections, including six discs of rare shellac recordings, spanning the entire range of his work. The 160 page booklet includes new informative liner notes and original photos. Gramophone described Wilhelm Kempff as “one of the great musical persuaders and communicators of our time” and Alfred Brendel observed, “At his best, he played more beautifully than any of us.”
The Concerto Recordings section of Wilhelm Kempff Edition includes 14 CDs and features Beethoven’s 5 piano concertos, several Mozart piano concertos, Schumann’s Piano Concerto, Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 1 and Liszt’s Piano Concerto.
The Chamber Music section includes 14 CDs and features Beethoven Sonatas for Piano and Violin with Wolfgang Schneiderhan and with Yehudi Menuhin, Beethoven Sonatas for Piano and Violoncello with Pierre Fournier, Beethoven Trios with Pierre Fournier and Henryk Szeryng, as well as recordings with Pablo Casals, Georg Kulenkampff, and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau.
The extensive Solo Repertoire section of Wilhelm Kempff Edition includes 46 CDs and features works by Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Chopin, Handel, Liszt, Mozart, Schubert, Schumann as well as the two complete Beethoven sonata cycles from 1951–56 and 1964–65.
The Shellac Recordings section includes six discs of rare shellac recordings of Beethoven’s Sonatas recorded between 1920 and 1943. To provide as comprehensive an overview of Wilhelm Kempff’s recording career as possible Deutsche Grammophon licensed a legendary nearly-complete Beethoven cycle from the shellac era (1925-43) from APR as a comparison with Kempff’s later complete mono and stereo LP cycles also included in the box. All of these recordings were made at 78 speed. The Edition concludes with Wilhelm Kempff’s very first shellac disc of Beethoven’s ‘C major Bagatelle’ op.33/5, where he can faintly be heard exclaiming “Donnerwetter” (“Dammit”) when his finger strikes two notes instead of one.
Gramophone noted, “Kempff’s tonal sheen and translucence, his magical elixir, remain unique in the history of piano playing” – it’s not hard to understand why when celebrating his incredible legacy with Wilhelm Kempff Edition.
Wilhelm Kempff Edition is out now and can be bought here.