The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music preview: Let us now praise Johann Nepomuk Hummel — whose music you can hear tonight | April 23, 2010

By Jacob Stockinger

Tonight at 8 p.m. in the Overture Center’s Capitol Theater, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra closes out its 50th anniversary season.

(Tickets are $19-$62. Call the Overture Center box office at 608 258-4141.)

On the program are Richard Strauss’ “Capriccio” Sextet; Schubert’s Symphony No. 9 “The Great”; and the Piano Concerto in A minor by Johann Nepomuk Hummel, with the critically acclaimed pianist Stuart Goodyear (below bottom) as soloist.

It’s the last work that is special and makes this concert a chance not only to celebrate the WCO but also to mark the rediscovery of Hummel (below, depicted in a painting).

Fifty years, ago Hummel (1778-1837) was not a well-known figure. Today. he is still largely unknown by the general  public, but much less so.

And he deserves a still bigger place both in music history and concert programs. He was a major transitional figure who bridged music from Classicism to Romanticism.

Hummel (a bust of him in his hometown of Weimar is below) has quite the biography.

Not many musicians could boast of having studied with Mozart, Hayd, Clementi and Salieri; of having played for and been friends with Beethoven; of having had the last three piano sonatas by his friend Schubert dedicated to him; of having composed two piano concertos (in A minor and B minor) that the young Frederic Chopin kept in his active repertoire.

Here is a link to Wikipedia’s biography of Hummel, which is as impressive as it is surprising:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johann_Nepomuk_Hummel

It is a sign of the programming acumen of WCO maestro and music director Andrew Sewell that he has programmed the Hummel concerto. It is a charming and dramatic work that looks forward more to Chopin than it looks back to Beethoven, though it has elements of both.

There are fine recordings of Hummel’s work – Stephen Hough has recorded his most famous piano concertos and piano sonatas, and Wynton Marsalis has recored his Trumpet Concerto — and more are constantly coming on the market. Especially popular are his piano works, his chamber music and his trumpet concerto.

Here is the beautiful and Chopinesque opening of the A minor piano concerto with Stephen Hough:

And here is a link to Amazon.com’s stock of recordings of Hummel:

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=node%3D85&field-keywords=Johann+Hummel&x=0&y=0

What do you think of Hummel’s music?

Do you like it?

Do you have a favorite Hummel work?

The Ear wants to hear.

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Posted in Classical music

1 Comment »

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