Freddy Kempf is an English pianist, born in 1977 in London to a German father and a Japanese mother. Having resided in London for many years and studying at the Royal Academy of Music, he now lives in Berlin.
Taking up the piano at the age of four, Kempf first caught the attention of British concertgoers four years later when he played Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 12, K. 414, with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at the Royal Festival Hall. The child virtuoso was shortly invited to Germany to repeat his performance. In 1987, Kempf won the first National Mozart Competition in England and in 1992, was named BBC Young Musician of the Year for his performance of Rachmaninoff's Paganini Rhapsody.
In a controversial turn of events, Kempf's early adult career ironically benefited from his failure to win the 1998 International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow, where the first prize in the piano section went instead to Denis Matsuev. Apparently, some judges had wanted to award the first prize jointly to Matsuev and Kempf and had successfully negotiated with the Russian Culture Ministry for the additional funding. However, Kempf collected only third prize in the end, which provoked a barrage of indignant protests from the audience and the Russian press, who accused some of the judges of bias (especially towards contestants who also happened to be their former pupils).
In April 1999, Kempf returned to Moscow with a series of television broadcasts and sold-out concerts. Kempf's popularity has been compared with that garnered by American pianist Van Cliburn who, in a different result in 1958, had won the inaugural Competition.
Kempf has continued to perform solo, chamber, and concertante music in Europe, the Americas, East Asia, and Australia, and has recorded recital discs of Bach, Beethoven, Chopin, Liszt, Prokofiev, Rachmaninoff, and Schumann. He was voted Best Young British Classical Performer in the Classical BRIT Awards in 2001.