Liszt Années de Pèlerinage (Excerpts)
Wilhelm Kempff first recorded this repertoire in the mono era for Decca and in 1975 he offered much of the same collection on a celebrated stereo LP. Strangely this outstanding programme has been out of the catalogue for many years but now it justly returns as one of DG’s “Originals”. One has only to begin with the hauntingly beautiful “Sposalizio” or the delightful “Gondoliera” to rediscover the lyrical magic and poetry of Kempff’s playing. It is apparent that he chose the items from the Années that he thought were the most inspired, and in his hands they certainly are. The two Légendes which follow are equally evocative: the picture of the twittering birds is exquisite, and the chorale theme of St Francis walking on the water has both power and a wonderful underlying serenity. Indeed, this is masterly playing, quite unforgettable, and the recording, balanced by Klaus Scheibe, produces a totally realistic sound image – not in the least dated. I have played the recital a number of times: it is already my record of the year, and I urge readers to acquire it.