Georg Solti’s first recordings were as a pianist – those with the great German violinist Georg Kulenkampff, here collected in their entirety. The two artists recorded Brahms’s G major sonata in February 1947 and Beethoven’s ’Kreutzer’ Sonata in June 1947. They completed the Brahms sonatas in July 1948. Sadly, this would be their only collaboration. Kulenkampff died on 4 October 1948, after a brief illness. He was only 50.
In these recordings with Kulenkampff, Solti’s exceptional abilities as a listener, his accomplishments as a repetiteur and his instinct as a soloist combine in perfect harmony. He is discreet but never excessively deferential in accompanimental passages, and bold but never obtrusive when the piano assumes a soloistic or quasi-orchestral prominence, especially in the Brahms sonatas and Beethoven’s ‘Kreutzer’. These recordings were made in the days when it was still standard practice to favour the violin acoustically, perpetuating the invidious idea of the pianist as mere ‘accompanist’. Yet through the very quality of his tone and impeccable judgement of his rhythm, Solti redresses the balance despite being somewhat ‘recessed’ by the recording team.
“This recording reveals what a magnificent technique [Solti] possessed … his playing is pretty good, and often remarkable for his very sparing use of the pedal […] [Kulenkampff’s playing] of the slow movement is exquisitely expressive.” (Beethoven) - “The great virtues of Kulenkampff were his sweet lyrical tone and his exquisite phrasing … this is glorious playing [Brahms Op. 78] by both artists. The last page of the slow movement is really tremendous, and touched with inspiration.” (Brahms) Gramophone