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Wilhelm Kempff

Friedrich Wilhelm Walter Kempff (1895–1991) is considered one of the great pianists of the twentieth century. One of the last chief exponents of the Germanic piano tradition, Kempff is particularly well known for his interpretations of Beethoven and Schubert. He is often best remembered for his warmth and poetic insights, sensitivity, and beautiful phrasing, yet this set of Kempff’s earliest recordings also reveal a young firebrand: a technical marvel capable of stunning, extroverted virtuosity.

Wilhelm Kempff was awarded two scholarships to the Berlin Hochschule für Musik at the age of nine: one to study piano with Heinrich Barth, and another to study composition with Brahms’s close friend and disciple Robert Kahn, both of whom had previously taught Artur Rubinstein. In 1917, Kempff gave his first major recital, consisting of predominantly major works, including Beethoven’s “Hammerklavier” and Brahms’s “Variations on a Theme of Paganini”. Kempff toured extensively during his career yet did not make his first London appearance until 1951, and his first in New York in 1964 at the ages of fifty-five and sixty-nine respectively. He gave his last public performance in Paris in 1981, and then retired for health reasons (Parkinson’s Disease).

Wilhelm Kempff recorded over a period of some sixty years, yet this set of his acoustic recordings is unique: this is the first time that these early acoustic recordings have been assembled and the only group of Kempff recordings that have never been reissued. Additionally, Kempff establishes himself as the first pianist in history to place fully a quarter of the Beethoven sonatas on disc. The final Kempff DG/Polydor acoustic recording is arguably the most historically significant, since his Beethoven First, recorded with the Berlin State Opera Orchestra in September of 1925, stands as the first commercial release of one of the staples of the modern repertoire. Notes by Stephen Siek (pianist, musicologist, piano historian, and author of England’s Piano Sage: The Life and Teachings of Tobias Matthay) round out this historically important and beautifully lyric set.

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The Complete Celestina Boninsegna

The Complete Celestina Boninsegna

55003-2 (5 CDs) | $ 72.00
VOCAL

Celestina Boninsegna (1877–1947) was one of the most prolifically-recorded sopranos of the early twentieth century. Yet it was not her stage career which convinced recording executives to produce her records, but her “phonogenic” voice that created the demand. Boninsegna’s recordings are stunning, making her one of the most collectible sopranos of her time. She managed to overcome the limitations of the acoustic recording studio and leave us records that have some of the presence of live recordings from the stage. According to Fred Gaisberg, the impresario for the Gramophone Company, Boninsegna’s “voice was so smooth and velvety and of such even registers that recording was no effort; the results obtained were always thoroughly musical and therefore gave intense pleasure. Those harsh places expected in any record by a dramatic soprano were conspicuous by their absence.”

Over the past fifty years there have been no comprehensive LP or CD reissues of Boninsegna’s records. We now pay homage to Boninsegna by reissuing all of her recordings in this five-CD set, which includes several extremely rare photos, complete discographic information, and an informative essay by Michael Aspinall on her career and recordings.

The Complete Recordings of Hina Spani

Hina Spani (1890*–1969) was born Higinia Tuñón in a province of Buenos Aires. She enjoyed a major operatic career centered in Italy during the 1920s and 1930s. Among the great sopranos of her era, Spani shines as brightly as any, yet her celebrity was less well known most likely due to her career being limited mainly to Italy, Spain, and South America, and her only tour to an English-speaking country was in Australia. She made her operatic debut at La Scala in 1915 as Anna in Catalani’s Loreley. She sang at Puccini’s funeral at the Duomo in Milan’s cathedral on 29 November 1924 (and repeated this performance at La Scala a month later) under the baton of Arturo Toscanini, which was a turning point in her career. She created the title role in the world premiere of Respighi’s Maria Egiziaca in 1934 at the Teatro Colón, Buenos Aires and performed in the world premiere of Alberto Franchetti’s Glauco. Spani’s voice is of first-rate quality and well-trained, with a beautifully warm tone and an even scale. She began as a lirico-spinto but graduated to dramatic parts and had a vibrant, instantly recognizable voice capable of thrilling the listener in opera or song. Although she was a true soprano, she had the fullness associated with mezzo-sopranos: she sang some roles often taken by mezzos, such as Marina in Boris Godunov and Santuzza in Cavalleria rusticana, and regretted never having portrayed Eboli in Don Carlos. She excelled in art songs but commanded no fewer than sixty operatic roles. After retiring from the operatic stage, she taught at the Vocal Art Institute of the Teatro Colón, which she directed.

Hina Spani’s entire recorded output can be found on fewer than twenty discs. Her musical conviction and sincerity linked with limited recordings have made Spani a favorite among record collectors. This complete two-CD set includes all of her recordings for Italian Columbia and HMV. The repertoire is almost evenly divided between operatic arias and Italian, Spanish, and Argentinian art songs. The booklet notes are by Michael Aspinall and Tully Potter.

*In true prima donna fashion, Spani took six years off her age and gave her birth year as 1896.

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Free CDs to Preferred Customers!

In recognition of our Preferred Customers, Marston created the Lagniappe Series. This series consists of single disc issues that are given to Preferred Customers free of charge. Read More.