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Wilhelm Kempff, the pianist who from a room in Berlin marked a turning point in the history of classical music
Among the first to record on shellac between 1920 and 1941
In 1920, the young and talented pianist Wilhelm Kempff found himself at the center of a defining historical moment for musical recording. While recording a Beethoven Bagatelle in a small room, nothing but study, from Berlin, a small mistake on the keyboard revealed a fundamental truth: recording required a different approach and discipline than live performances. This incident marked a turning point in musical performance and marked the dawn of a new era, in which recording established itself as an artistic act autonomous and distinct from live performance.

With the advent of recording, a new form of 'was borncompetition' among the artists. This phenomenon was evident in the comparison between Kempff and Wilhelm Backhaus. Kempff, although a virtuoso in the studio, was perceived by some as an artificial product, lacking the stage charisma that defines a live performance. Wilhelm contrasted sharply with the figure of Artur Schnabel, another prominent pianist, who initially refused to record, arguing that it eliminated the essential connection between performer and listener, thus dehumanizing the musical art.

But another crucial moment in the history of classical recording was marked by Enrico Caruso. In 1902, his ten arias recorded with Fred Gaisberg met with extraordinary success, definitively establishing that recording was not only a technological innovation but also a means to prosperity and fame. These, in fact, demonstrated the potential of recording as an art form in its own right, as well as a tool for celebrating and preserving musical performances.

Subsequently, the introduction of electric recording marked another significant step forward, allowing greater sound fidelity, with an advantage that should not be underestimated, namely, the possibility of distancing oneself from the microphone and having greater freedom of movement. This technological improvement paved the way for an era of mass entertainment and shared experiences. However, the Great Depression had a devastating impact on the industry, leading to a sharp decline in record sales culminating in the merger of HMV and Columbia, creating Electrical and Music Industries Ltd (EMI).

In the following period, the figure of the conductor became fundamental in the world of classical recording. Arturo Toscanini, in particular, emerged as a charismatic and influential leader, known for his meticulous and passionate interpretations of Italian operas and German symphonies. His influence in the field of recording was such that RCA Victor went to great lengths to enhance and promote his image as 'indomitable‘.

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Wilhelm Kempff, born in 1895 and passed away in 1991, was a very famous German pianist, organist and composer. His career, which began in Berlin, represented a fundamental chapter in the evolution of classical music, marking a decisive turning point in the history of musical recording. Kempff was among the first to record all of Franz Schubert's sonatas, long before they became popular, and has played a wide range of musical works for over sixty years.

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