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Paul van Kempen (1893 - 1955)

Paul van Kempen studied the violin at the Amsterdam Conservatory, and at the age of seventeen joined the Concertgebouw Orchestra: the influence upon him of the orchestra’s chief conductor Willem Mengelberg, after he had decided to become a conductor, was considerable. During the early stages of his career, van Kempen continued to play the violin, holding the position of concertmaster (orchestra leader) at Posen from 1916, and later at Bad Nauheim; he also taught the violin at Dortmund. His conducting debut came at Oberhausen, where he was made chief conductor in 1932.

Having taken German citizenship in 1933, during 1933 and 1934 van Kempen conducted the Deutsche Musikbühne, which toured throughout Germany, and in 1934 was appointed chief conductor of the Dresden Philharmonic Orchestra (the city’s second, primarily symphonic, orchestra after that of the Dresden Opera, the Dresden Staatskapelle). He improved the standard of the Dresden Philharmonic, establishing it as a significant European presence, as may be heard in the recordings of piano concertos by Mozart and Beethoven made with the pianist Wilhelm Kempff in 1941 and 1942. In that year, van Kempen took over from von Karajan as chief conductor at Aachen, staying there until 1944. Both before and during World War II he made numerous recordings for the Polydor label, with the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, Berlin Philharmonic and Berlin State Opera Orchestras amongst others, as well as with the Dresden Philharmonic.




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