WAGNER:  Preludes to Acts I and III of Lohengrin.  Prelude and Good Friday Spell from Parsifal.  Prelude and Liebestod from Tristan und Isolde
Vienna Philharmonic Orch/Rudolf Kempe, cond.
TESTAMENT SBT 1274 (F) (ADD) TT:  69:08
BUY NOW FROM AMAZON

SMETANA:  Suite from The Bartered Bride.  DVORÁK:  Scherzo capriccioso, Op. 66.  HUMPERDINCK:  Suite from Hänsel und Gretel.
Royal Philharmonic Orch/Rudolf Kempe, cond.
TESTAMENT SBT 1279 (F) (ADD)
BUY NOW FROM AMAZON

JOHANN STRAUSS I: Radetzky March.  JOHANN STRAUSS II:  Overture to Die Fledermaus.  Kaiser Waltz, Op. 437.  Intermezzo from Ein Tausend und eine Nacht.  Geschichten aus dem Wienerwald Waltz, Op. 325. Im Krapfenwald'l Polka.  JOSEF STRAUSS:  Dynamiden Waltz, Op. 173.  Sphärenklange Waltz, Op. 235.  LEHÁR: Gold und Silber Waltz, Op. 79.  HEUBERGER:  Overture to Der Opernball
Vienna Philharmonic Orch/Rudolf Kempe, cond.
TESTAMENT SBT 1275 (F) (ADD) TT:  78:14
BUY NOW FROM AMAZON
 

MENDELSSOHN:  The Hebrides Overture, OP. 26.  WEBER: Oberon Overture.  REZNICEK:  Donna Diana Overture.  NICOLAI:  The Merry Wives of Windsor Overture.  SCHUBERT:  Incidental Music for Rosamunde.  SMETANA:  The Bartered Bride Overture.  SUPPE:  Ein Morgen, ein Mittag, ein Abend in Wien Overture. JOHANN STRAUSS II:  Leichtes Blut Polka, Op. 319.
Vienna Philharmonic Orch/Rudolf Kempe, cond.
TESTAMENT SBT 1276 (F) (ADD) TT:  74:44
BUY NOW FROM AMAZON

RIMSKY-KORSAKOV:  Scheherazade, Op. 35.  WEINBERGER:  Polka and Fugue from Schwanda the Bagpiper.  DVORÁK:  Scherzo capriccioso, Op. 66
Berlin Philharmonic Orch/Rudolf Kempe, cond.
TESTAMENT SBT 1280 (F) (ADD) TT:  69:54
BUY NOW FROM AMAZON

Fortunately for collectors, Testament has keen interest in conductor Rudolf Kempe; they have in their catalog over 20 CDs licensed from EMI including all of the Brahms symphonies, Tchaikovsky's Fifth and Sixth, Dvorak's From the New World, Beethoven's Eroica, three Mozart symphonies, Berlioz' Symphonie fantastique, Strauss' Don Quixote (with Paul Tortelier and the BPO recorded in 1958, not the 1973 recording with Tortelier and the Dresden Staatskapelle), and many shorter works.  Five of these CDs are listed above—for a complete listing go to http://www.testament.co.uk  EMI included Kempe in their Artist Profile series issued in 1996 (68736), a twin-CD set containing music of Smetana, Lehár, Josef Strauss, Haydn, Weber, Humperdinck and Richard Strauss (Till Eulenspiegel and Don Quixote, the latter two the 1958 recordings). 

Kempe (1910 - 1976) studied piano, violin and oboe. For a time he was principal oboe of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra before turning to opera in 1935 when he conducted Lortzing's Der Wildschutz at the Leipzig Opera. In 1949 he was appointed director of the Dresden Opera where the following year he made the first complete recording of Der Rosenkavalier. Sir Thomas Beecham invited him to be associate conductor of the Royal Philharmonic and upon Beecham's death in 1961 Kempe became Chief Conductor remaining there until 1975 after which he became conductor of the BBC Symphony until his untimely death in 1976 at the age of 65.  Strauss played a major role in Kempe's career and he was recognized as a leading interpreters of the composer's music, reflected in EMI's decision in 1970-1976 to record all of Strauss's orchestral music with Kempe and the Dresden State Orchestra.  

Of the CDs listed above, surely the most important is the Wagner collection where we find the Vienna Philharmonic in top form in glowing performances of music from Parsifal and Tristan.  It's an early stereo recording (1958) with fine presence and rich sonorities. All of the other recordings are splendid, particularly  Scheherazade recorded in 1967, a decade after Sir Thomas made his famous recording with the same orchestra. We have two recordings of Scherzo capriccioso, one from 1957 with the RPO, the other from Berlin 1957. 

All five CDs contain the same  information about the conductor, nothing about individual recordings. Sound throughout is excellent, equal or superior to any previous transfers.  Collectors surely will wish to investigate this series—but it's unfortunate they aren't issued at mid price; it is rather hard for them to compete with budget-priced issues of similar material.

R.E.B. (March 2003)