With a flourishing international concert career and an acclaimed discography, Freddy Kempf has become firmly established among the top pianists of today – a process which to an extent began with his participation in the Tchaikovsky Competition in 1998, but also with his recording début the following year. His very first disc, at the age of 22, was a Schumann recital that made reviewers around the world sit up and take notice: ‘Buy this disc, and get in on the ground floor of a major pianistic career’, was the prophetic recommendation on web site ClassicsToday.com. Twelve highly praised recordings later, with programmes ranging from partitas by Bach over Chopin, Mussorgsky and Prokofiev to Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, Kempf now returns to Schumann, and to three works composed between 1834 and 1839. The disc opens with the Op.12 Fantasiestücke – a collection of eight pieces intended to be played in sequence and with enough echoes of traditional dance forms to create the impression of a suite. Less often heard in concert nowadays is Blumenstück from 1839, a self-contained piece which Schumann the following year presented as a bridal gift to Clara Wieck. Closing the disc is one of Schumann’s most imposing works for solo piano, the Symphonic Études, Op.13. The work had a long and complicated genesis: conceiving it in 1834 as a set of variations, Schumann completely reworked it and published a first version in 1837. In 1852 he returned to the work, however, bringing out a revised version which omitted the third and ninth movements, and in which the last movement had been shortened. After Schumann’s death, finally, Brahms edited five variations which the composer had left out when first publishing the work. On the present disc, Freddy Kempf plays the 1852 version, with the additional five variations published by Brahms, and the third and ninth études from the 1837 edition.
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