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Prokofiev: Piano Sonatas 3, 8 & 9 - Kempf

Prokofiev: Piano Sonatas 3, 8 & 9 - Kempf

BIS  BIS-2390

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Instrumental


Prokofiev: Piano Sonatas 3, 8 & 9

Freddy Kempf (piano)


Sergei Prokofiev virtually grew up at the keyboard – he composed for the piano from early childhood, and the instrument was his workshop and laboratory. Well before the end of his student days he had absorbed the virtuoso techniques of Rachmaninov and Scriabin, and to these he added his own brilliant, sharp-edged virtuosity, marked by a keen contrast between dramatic, hard-driven passages and more intimate and gentle lyrical moments. His nine sonatas therefore hold a very special place in his output and represent his language at its most personal, free of any external dramatic, verbal or visual associations: they contain the essential Prokofiev.

Freddy Kempf has previously recorded four of the sonatas, released on BIS-1260 and -1820 to critical acclaim: ‘Kempfis joyfully exuberant, flashing through every savage challenge with the assurance and instinct of a born virtuoso’ (Gramophone). With this release, he adds another three sonatas to his discography, starting with Sonata No. 3 in A minor which Prokofiev premiered in Petrograd in April 1918. Three weeks later he left Russia and only returned in 1936, after seventeen years spent in the USA, Germany and France. Premiered in 1944, Sonata No. 8 is the third and last of the so-called ‘War Sonatas’ – possibly less virtuosic than its predecessors, it has a wide emotional range, with unexpected depths. His final, ninth sonata Prokofiev wrote for Sviatoslav Richter, saying: ‘Don’t think it’s intended to create an effect.’ Often almost improvisatory, it was the last work he completed before the infamous 1948 decrees that disciplined many Soviet composers, and the first performance did not take place until 1951.

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PCM recording

Recorded in April 2018 at the Sendesaal, Bremen, Germany, 24/96

Grand piano: Steinway D

Recording producer and sound engineer: Jens Braun (Take5 Music Production)

Executive producer: Robert Suff
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Comment by Mark Werlin - October 21, 2019 (1 of 1)

My reference for Prokofiev's sonatas are Richter's live recordings from Tokyo, currently reissued on Divox. The catalogue is not lacking in RBCD albums of the sonatas, but there are relatively few in hi-res or SACD.

This month brings two new hi-res releases containing the composer's Sonata No. 9: Alexander Melnikov on Harmonia Mundi, CD and 24/96 download, and an outstanding performance by Freddy Kempf on BIS, SACD and 24/96 download.

Anyone looking for Prokofiev in high resolution should audition this new album, recorded in 2018 at the Sendesaal, Bremen by Jens Braun. Highly recommended!