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Johann Nepomuk HUMMEL (1778-1837)
Piano and Violin Concerto Op.17 (1804) [36.24]
Violin Concerto (completed by Gregory Rose) (?1806) [27.29]
Alexander Trostiansky (violin)
Polina Osetinskaya (piano)
Russian Philharmonic Orchestra/Gregory Rose
Recorded in Studio 5, Russian State TV and Radio Company Kultura, Moscow. September 2004
NAXOS 8.557595 [64.21]


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Hummel was a significant concerto composer but neither of the two presented in Naxos’ Nineteenth Century Concerto series will be at all well known. The Violin Concerto, provisionally dated to around 1806, was never completed and for this recording Gregory Rose has added orchestral parts to a number of passages in the outer movements, as well as two cadenzas and has completely edited the work.

Fortunately the solo part was intact and the adagio exists in Hummel’s own hand. It’s a pleasing work but rather too long for its material, not least the first movement. The solo part calls for an executant of a high technical order though not one who necessarily needs to excavate much in the way of sentiment or genuine feeling. Not that the concerto is merely decorative; the slow movement seems to me to show some influence not of a contemporary such as Beethoven, nor of a decided influence on Hummel such as Mozart, but rather of Gluck. There’s a wistful, vocalised quality to it that impresses. The finale is pliant and colourful but stubbornly unmemorable. As for the recording the violin is rather spotlit at the expense of orchestral detail; the orchestral playing can be a touch rugged and soloist Alexander Trostiansky – who can certainly get round the notes – could have varied his colours rather more, with the recording tending to exaggerate an abrasive quality to his tone.

The double concerto for the unusual combination of piano and violin was completed in 1804. This is certainly cut from Mozartian cloth – I thought of the later violin concertos and the Sinfonia Concertante rather more than the piano concertos. The piano often as not takes a dominating role in the first movement, with the violin often finishing phrase endings or commenting on the piano’s statements, though there’s considerable give and take and interplay between the two. There’s a big cadenza for the two to end the first movement. The central movement is fluent, eventful – with fine roles for wind principals to weave decorative lines into the textures. Rose has introduced a cadenza in the Rondo finale – a bright, sparky movement, not especially distinctive but with brisk exchanges to enliven proceedings.

There are competing versions of both these works on Chandos 10255 James Ehnes plays the Violin Concerto in the completed version made by Hogger and Shelley. Howard Shelley himself conducts and joins Ehnes for the double concerto on Chandos 9687. Ehnes is certainly the superior instrumentalist and plays with dash and finesse. Shelley plays and conducts with admirable direction. The problem is that you have to invest in both discs; Naxos has cut the Gordian knot and joined them; at budget price, despite some weaknesses in performance and recording, you will certainly encounter two spirited works.

Jonathan Woolf





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