Prokofiev: Piano Concertos 2 & 3 - Kempf, Litton
Prokofiev: Piano Concerto No. 2, Piano Concerto No. 3, Piano Sonata No. 2
Freddy Kempf (piano)
Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra
Andrew Litton (conductor)
Separately, both Freddy Kempf and the team of Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra under Andrew Litton have recorded music by Prokofiev for BIS, resulting in highly acclaimed releases. Freddy Kempf's 2003 Prokofiev solo recital was described as 'a superb disc' in Gramophone, whose critic went on to write: 'Kempf is joyfully exuberant, flashing through every savage challenge with the assurance and instinct of a born virtuoso.' Four years later, the Bergen orchestra and Litton recorded the twenty movements from the composer's three Romeo and Juliet suites, performed in the order the music appears in the ballet score.
The outcome of this original approach was widely praised, for instance by the reviewer on the German website Klassik Heute: "a European top orchestra and an American conductor with great insights into the Russian repertoire meet up, and the result is sparkling, colourful, ardent and with great presence." Kempf, Litton and the Bergen PO now join forces in an all-Prokofiev programme that includes the most popular of his five piano concertos, namely the Third, a spontaneous work, vigorous and melodic in turns and full of striking material presented in a typical Prokofiev manner.
This is coupled with the Second Piano Concerto, which Prokofiev himself premièred in 1913, shocking the audience with its modernistic sounds and jagged rhythms. The original score was lost during the Russian Revolution and Prokofiev reconstructed the work in Paris in 1923. According to the composer himself, the new version was so completely rewritten that it almost constituted a new work. Between the two concertos Freddy Kempf performs the Second Piano Sonata, a key work in Prokofiev's development and full of striking and individual ideas.
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Review by Mark Novak - March 13, 2010
Prior to hearing this recording, I was not a big fan of the second concerto nor of any of Prokofiev's piano sonatas. This SACD has changed my mind about the concerto if not entirely about the sonatas (yet). My impression is that Freddy Kempf has extracted as much music as possible from the notes in the score of Op.16. His approach is lyrical rather than spiky, making the most of Prokofiev's melodies, such as they are. Andrew Litton is also beginning to win me over as a conductor based on several recent BIS releases. The conducting is sympathetic to Kempf's style and together the result is the most musical version of the second concerto I've heard. While the over-riding style is lyrical, there is also plenty of excitement to be had in this performance. The scherzo (vivace) races and scampers but it is more joyful than manic. This performance has now become my reference standard for Op.16.
The third concerto is one I've always admired and this performance lives up to the high expectations set by Op.16. Written eight years after the second, Op.26 has a few less edges and a bit more lyricism. Kempf is a natural for this work and performs it splendidly. The contributions from Litton and the Bergen Philharmonic are top rank as well.
The substantial "filler" is the second piano sonata, Op.14. While it may lack the melodic profile of the third concerto, it is a work of varying temperament with many intersting ideas. Again, Freddy Kempf plays it authoritatively and very musically. Based on this performance, I could be convinced to explore more of the sonatas from Kempf.
The concertos were recorded in Grieg Hall in Bergen, Norway by Engineer Thore Brinkmann. The sonics are superb. The balance of piano and orchestra is wonderfully judged and just the right amount of hall sound is blended into the mix. BIS seems to have really gotten this venue down right. The low bass is present establishing the foundation of the orchestra nicely and the rest of the frequency range is captured faithfully. The sonata was recorded in former Acacdemy of Music in Stockholm by Producer/Engineer Jens Braun. This, too, is a faithful reproduction of a Steinway grand.
There is a generous 80 minutes of music here. BIS is to be commended for such an excellent production. Highly Recommended!
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