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Hummel and Schubert -
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'... virtuoso display.'

Franz Schubert Forellenquintett Op 114. © 2003 harmonia mundi

Johann Nepomuk Hummel met Haydn in London, had some organ lessons with him in Vienna, and became his colleague at Eisenstadt in service to Prince Nikolaus Esterházy on 1 April 1804. A superb pianist, he had been taught by Mozart, and it was only the increasing prominence of Beethoven in Vienna that cramped his style. It was in Vienna, however, that he wrote the Quintet on this CD for the original combination of piano, string trio and double bass. It is a beautifully crafted work, and the team relishes the ready opportunities for virtuoso display. But there is warm lyricism too, as in the second group of the opening Allegro [listen -- track 1, 1:09-2:17]. The Op 87 designation is misleading, as the 1802 work was published twenty years later. The product of Hummel's early maturity, it shows him on top form, with idiomatic keyboard writing but evident delight in the novel combination of instruments he had assembled [listen -- track 4, 1:12-2:12].

In 1814 Hummel diverted the delegates to the Congress of Vienna, and became a pianist of international renown. Moreover he had a topical opera produced at the Theater an der Wien, The Return of the Emperor, symbolically banishing Napoleon. Among his Vienna compositions was a Septet Op 74 for piano, wind and strings. Significantly he also arranged it for the same combination as his earlier quintet, and that is where Schubert will eventually come in. Hummel moved on in 1819 to Weimar, where Goethe was established as luminary of incomparable brilliance, attracting much that was fascinating in intellectual Europe. Hummel had at his disposal a social circle not only interesting in itself, but one that could drum up audiences for his concert tours.

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Copyright © 27 August 2003 Robert Anderson, London UK


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