– BIS MultiChannel SACD 1390, 64:08 ***:
Playing a rather brilliant Steinway D instrument at the Academy of
Music, Stockholm, in 2003, British pianist Freddy Kempf (b. 1977) makes
a lyrical and aggressive contribution to the long line of virtuosos who
traverse these familiar sets of etudes. Engineer Jens Braun pushes the
sonic envelope to the brink, with the C# Minor, Op. 10, No. 4
threatening to shatter at the extreme ends, but it all works nicely.
The whole disc, in fact, is an audiophile model for rich, pointed, and
balanced piano sound.
Besides demonstrating fleet and whiplash acumen with the bravura
etudes, Kempf has the poetic touch for the E Major and E-flat Minor
etudes from Op. 10,and he can create a florid singing line from
Chopin’s ostinati as well as from the persistent arpeggios with which
Op. 25 is rife. The syncope C Major, Op. 10, No. 7 pulses with
showmanship. Nice interior work in the F Major, Op. 10, No. 8. The
Lisztian F Minor has angst and sinuous shape, at once. The real test of
the Chopin Etudes is, for me, the massive C# Minor, Op. 25, No. 7, a
darkly wrought ballade whose brief trills and passing harmonic
dissonances allow Kempf to weave a delicately tragic tapestry.
Kempf molds another affecting nocturne out of the middle section of the
B Minor Etude, Op. 25, No. 10. Suave pedaling takes us back to the
furies of the opening octaves. The sturm und drang of the concluding C
Minor Etude, Op. 25, No. 12 wells up from a sea of troubles, with
resonant right-hand figures in the upper registers. Kempf may
well have provided us with a set of Etudes for the 21st Century which
bears favorable comparison with what Arrau, Wild, and Pollini
accomplished for the 20th Century Chopin style.