℗ 1995 Deutsche Grammophon GmbH, Berlin under exclusive license to Universal Music Classics, a Division of UMG Recordings, Inc.
© 2015 Deutsche Grammophon GmbH, Berlin under exclusive license to Universal Music Classics, a Division of UMG Recordings, Inc.
Wilhelm Kempff, piano
Ferdinand Leitner, conductor
In the most beautiful of all piano concertos it isn’t the orchestra which introduces the main theme but the piano": Wilhelm Kempff (1895-1991) justified in this way his preference for Beethoven's lyrical Fourth Concerto in G major. During his long, troublefree career, he played both the Fourth and “Emperor" Concertos all over the world, from the capital of his homeland Prussia, the Berlin of the Kaisers, to Japan and South America, from Scandinavia to Baalbek. He used to improvise the two cadenzas in the G major Concerto, employing a musical imagination that had been schooled in composition, and he made no exception when he recorded the work in July 1961, at the age of 66. This poet of pianism was accompanied by an orchestra he knew well, the Berlin Philharmonic, under the distinguished German conductor Ferdinand Leitner (born 1912). Kempff's witty and sensitive approach reveals new subtleties in the heroic E flat major Concerto, the "Emperor", a performance recorded at the same time as the G major that has frequently been singled out for the highest praise. The Penguin Guide has called it "perhaps the most refreshing and imaginative of all. Strength there is in plenty and excitement, too. [Kempff's] range of tone-colour is extraordinarily wide, from the merest half-tone as though the fingers are barely brushing the keys to the crisp impact of a dry fortissimo."