Hummel Piano Concerto in A minor Op. 85
I often lament at the lack of recognition the composer Hummel is given. Notable comments referring to my chosen Concerto as “very respectable” do little to assign this mighty work to its justified position. Let’s note a bit about the man’s pedigree: his teachers included Haydn, Clementi and Mozart while Beethoven, and Mendelssohn were among his pupils! “More scorned than acknowledged, Hummel unwittingly provided a means for other composer’s gain, a vital key to their musical character”. Chopin was certainly influenced by this great man, most notably in his two piano concertos.
It was written in 1816 and scored for piano, flute, two oboes, two clarinets, two bassoons, two horns, two trumpets, timpani and strings. The works is composed in traditional three movement form.
I love the blend of formality and virtuosity. The music is fresh and vivid and truly holds a new audience captive in awe and silence. At times Hummel astonishes his listeners with his flamboyance, stunning us and the pianist with near impossible demands. The final movement commences with a beautiful, graceful theme and changes into a fast and furious tarantella leaving the listener quite dazzled. Delightful.
My recommendation is as much about Stephen Hough’s stunning performance here in this recording, as the extraordinary composition. The soloist, Hough readily admits that learning these two concertos was like a baptism of fire. These are super-charged performances and this was the first ever recording to be produced on one disc. It will always remain one of my most treasured CDs.
Hummel Piano Concerto in A minor Op. 85 with Piano Concerto in B minor Op. 89
Stephen Hough – English Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Bryden Thomson
Chandos Label, available from Amazon.co.uk