Kempff was born (1895 in Jüterbog, Brandenburg, Germany) in a family of distinguished church musicians. His father was his first teacher. He entered the Hochschule für Musik Berlin at age nine (deeply impressing the directors with his playing, improvisation and compositions) did furthur study in Potsdam, and finished up in Berlin 1916 also studying philosopy and music history.
His first appearance as a soloist was with the Berlin Phil Orch in 1918, Beethovens G major piano concerto under Arthur Nikisch…..Scandinavian tours continued after the war, culminating in a award bestowed on him by King Gustav of Sweden.
He was music director of Musikhochschule Stuttgart 1924-1929, and married piano pupil Helene Freiin Hiller in 1926. In 1927 took his first trip to Turkey and met with president Atatürk offering advice on appointments to Ankara college of music.
Then taught at Potsdam 1931-1941 with Edwin Fischer and Walter Gieseking. Premiere of his second opera “family Gozzi” in 1934 to good notices. He composed many works for orchestra, piano, organ, chamber ensembles and songs.
In 1951 he published his autobiography, “”Unter dem Zimbelstern, das Werden eines Musikers”
His first London concert in 1951 launched his strong international career (tho his first of many trips to Japan took place in 1936)
His first visit to US was for concerts in New York City, 1964
1969 TV broadcast of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto G major with Rafael Kubelik (someone post that!!)
UNESCO Concert (1974) in Paris with Yehudi Menuhin and Mstislav Rostropovitch.
1979 was his last concert with orchestra, Beethovens piano concerto G major with the Philharmonia Orchestra under Vladimir Ashkenazy.
1981 his second book came out “Was ich hörte, was ich sah”.
23 May 1991, William Kempff died. He is buried in the private forest cemetery of the Baron von Künssberg at Upper Franconia.
About “The Tempest” from Wikipedia: “
The Piano Sonata No. 17 in D minor, Op. 31, No. 2, was composed in 1801/02 by Ludwig van Beethoven. It is usually referred to as “The Tempest” (or Der Sturm in his native German), but the sonata was not given this title by Beethoven, or indeed referred to as such during his lifetime. The name comes from a claim by his associate Anton Schindler that the sonata was inspired by the Shakespeare play. However, much of Schindler’s information is distrusted by classical music scholars. The British music scholar, Donald Francis Tovey, in his authoritative book A Companion to Beethoven’s Pianoforte Sonatas, says that
“With all the tragic power of its first movement the D minor Sonata is, like Prospero, almost as far beyond tragedy as it is beyond mere foul weather. It will do you no harm to think of Miranda at bars 31-38 of the slow movement… but people who want to identify Ariel and Caliban and the castaways, good and villainous, may as well confine their attention to the exploits of Scarlet Pimpernel when the Eroica or the C minor Symphony is being played (pg. 121).”
The piece consists of three movements and takes approximately twenty-five minutes to perform:
- Largo – Allegro
Each of the movements is in sonata form, though the second lacks a substantial development section. The first movement alternates brief moments of seeming peacefulness with extensive passages of turmoil, after some time expanding into a haunting “storm” in which the peacefulness is lost. This musical form, one will note, is rather unique among all Beethoven sonatas to that date. Concerning the time period and style, it was definitely thought of as an odd thing to write; a pianist’s skills were demonstrated in many ways, and showing changes in tone, technique and speed efficiently many times in one movement was one of them. The development begins with rolled, long chords, quickly ending to thetremolo theme of the exposition. There is a long recitative section at the beginning of this movement’s recapitulation, again ending to fast and suspenseful passages.
The second movement in B flat major is slower and more dignified. It mirrors the opening of the first movement both through use of a rolling recitative-like arpeggio on the first chord, and the rising melodic ideas in the opening six measures, which are reminiscent of the first movement’s recitative. Other ideas in this movement mirror the first, for instance, a figure in the eighth measure and parallel passages of the second movement is similar to a figure in the sixth measure of the first.
The third movement is a sonata-rondo hybrid in the key of D minor. It is very moving, first flowing with emotion and then reaching a climax, before moving into an extended development section which mainly focuses on the opening figure of the movement, reaching a climax at measures 169-173. The recapitulation, which is preceded by an extensive cadenza-like passage of sixteenth notes for the right hand, is followed by another retransition and then another statement of the primary theme. The refrain undergoes phrase expansion to build tension for the climax of the movement at measure 381, a fortissimo falling chromatic scale.