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Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Overture, Leonore No. 3, Op. 72a.
Antonín DVORAK
Symphony No. 9 in E minor, Op. 95, 'From the New World'.
The Love for Three Oranges - Symphonic Suite, Op. 33bis.
BBC Symphony Orchestra/Rudolf Kempe.
Recorded in the Royal Albert Hall, London on August 27th and 29th, 1975. [ADD].
BBC Music/IMG Artists BBCL4056-2 [70.35]
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Included in the booklet to this 'concert' is an interview with Kempe's widow, Cordula, who launches the Rudolf Kempe Memorial Award for Young Conductors in 2001. She makes explicit the dichotomy of Kempe's old-school conducting training in Germany and the speedier, more spontaneous approach of British orchestras, a necessary offshoot of English schedules. That the contrast was a symbiotic one is attested to by the present recording, the atmosphere heightened immeasurably by the 'live' element.

The performance of Leonore No. 3 Overture is gripping from first to last. True, there are lapses of ensemble, but these are a small price to pay for the sense of drama Kempe is able to inspire from the BBC players: the Allegro creeps in with all the hushed expectancy one could ask for, and Kempe has a complete grasp of Beethoven's blissfully protracted harmonic prolongations.

A sense of dramatic characterisation is also very much to the fore in the Suite from Prokofiev's The Love for Three Oranges, but here it is coupled with an infectious sense of fun. From the bustling violin scales of Le Magicien Tchélio et Fata Morgana jouent aux cartes to the riotous (and famous) March, everybody has a ball. La Prince et la Princesse provides a moment of welcome tenderness (the horn solo is heart-rending).

Cordula Kempe makes the point that Dresden (Kempe's birthplace) is 'only spitting distance from Prague - it's the same soil'. Indeed, Dvorák's music does seem to be within Kempe's soul: he perfectly understands the musical processes involved, from motivic development to the central role of texture. Melodies are given space to breathe, momentum effortlessly maintained in the outer movements. The sense of stillness in the famous Largo is truly beautiful: the BBC Symphony Orchestra plays with a rapt concentration (and a true pianissimo) that stills the audience into silence.

Kempe's time with the BBC Symphony Orchestra was painfully and cruelly short, beginning officially in September 1975 (immediately after these concerts) and curtailed by his death in May 1976. This disc acts as a fitting memorial as well as a pointer to what might have been.


Colin Clarke

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