LISZT: Les Preludes; BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 8; MENDELSSOHN: The Hebrides Overture; ROSSINI: William Tell; BERLIOZ: Benvenuto Cellini Overture; BRAHMS: Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat Major – Berlin Philharmonic/Paul van Kempen – Tahra

by | Jul 21, 2005 | Classical Reissue Reviews | 0 comments

LISZT: Les Preludes; BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 8 in F Major;
MENDELSSOHN: The Hebrides Overture; ROSSINI: Overture to William Tell;
BERLIOZ: Benvenuto Cellini Overture; BRAHMS: Piano Concerto No. 2 in
B-flat Major – Paul van Kempen conducts Berlin Philharmonic
Orchestra/Adrian Aeschbacher, piano

TahraTAH 512-513  61:27; 55:12 (Distrib. Harmonia Mundi)****:

Among the great Dutch conductors the name of Paul van Kempen
(1893-1955) seems to have faded in repute, undeservedly so, since each
of his inscriptions bears testimony to a major talent. Some years ago,
Philips issued a powerful Tchaikovsky CD, featuring two white-hot
readings of the Fifth Symphony and Capriccio Italien; and DGG has
sporadically issued collaborations in Beethoven with Kempff and
Schneiderhahn. Here, Myriam Scherchen’s excellent TAHRA label offers
Volume I of three devoted to Kempen’s art, 1937-1952, with the Berlin
Philharmonic – an ensemble he shared with Furtwaengler, Abendroth,
Knappertsbusch, Borchard, Schuricht, and Celibidache. Fair company,

The program spread between the two discs proceeds chronologically,
opening with the 22 December 1937 Liszt Les Preludes, a vibrant and
rhythmically flexible reading in the same athletic mold that Mengelberg
and Fricsay brought to the score, evocative not only of dramatic power
but of a vocal resonance with debts to Kempen’s many years of leading
large choral works.  The Beethoven Eighth Symphony dates from
1940, from sessions recorded in July and October of that politically
tumultuous year. While maintaining a light hand on Beethoven’s
textures, the music moves with urgency, wit, and vitality, and the
contrapuntal passages and orchestral stretti suggest the kind of power
Kempen might have bestowed to the Eroica Symphony.  The
Mendelssohn, Rossini, and Berlioz offerings derive from sessions
concentrated in May and July 1951, each rife with a lithe energy that
suggests a Dutch Monteux or Markevitch (another master of the long
balanced line). Interior colors enjoy a healthy indulgence from Kempen,
with marvelous woodwind sonorities in the Mendelssohn evocation of
Scottish sea gulls and choppy seas.

The collectors‚ gem–without denigrating the visceral excitement in the
Rossini and Berlioz staples– is the January 1952 collaboration with
pianist Adrian Aeschbacher in the Brahms B-flat Concerto, a reading of
coloristic polish and exquisite tonal balances in the keyboard and the
orchestra. Pianist Aeschbacher already has excellent credentials via
his Beethoven and Brahms inscriptions with Furtwaengler. Here, with
Kempen, he seems perfectly at ease in the bravura passages of Brahms,
delivering big block chords and rippling cascades of arpeggios when
required. The facility of articulation in the D Minor Scherzo has more
than a moment of Horowitz and Toscanini in full throttle.  The
aerial lift in the Andante is once again balanced tastefully and
artfully in the deft and skittish Allegretto grazioso, both of which
bask in a grand leisure of execution that will refresh even veteran
auditors of this epic work.

–Gary Lemco

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