Had he been alive today, Rudolph Kempe would have been well over 100 years old.
But Sunday night’s concert of the chamber music Kempe loved so much celebrated both the birthday of this genius among conductors and also Kempe’s life-long relationship with his native Dresden and its orchestra, the Dresden Staatskapelle, (the orchestra praised by Richard Wagner as “The Magic Harp”) which has produced some of Kempe’s finest recordings.
Outside in the gardens of the Kempe Studio the flowers were bright around Kempe’s simple gravestone, inside the four musicians who had been brought together for this special occasion by Cordula Kempe, Kempe’s widow, gave us piano quartets by Mozart (Eflat major K493) and Brahms (a major opus 26).
Both of these haunting pieces, with the Mozart especially as transparently lovely as a light silken tissue, reminded us through the excellent background readings that Kempe had started out in life before and during the war as a pianist. Cordula Kempe spoke of his deep love for chamber music and of his early training as an oboist, which took him into the Leipzig Gewandhause, one of Europe’s premier orchestras.
Cordula Kempe on violin joined Robin Del Mar (son of Norman Del Mar) on viola and Friedrich Milatz on cello, the latter musician someone who knew Kempe well and had worked with him over the years. A balanced tribute to a great artist in so many ways was heightened by the lyrical playing of Hiroto Saguisa, a young , brilliantly-talented Japanese pianist who poured such unstinted beauty into the evening.
Sadly, Jeffery Dench, who was to have read the poetry and prose links, was indisposed. His place was taken by Father Alex Austen, who clearly was in unfamiliar territory. But he linked the prose episodes as neatly as could be expected.