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Johann Nepomuk HUMMEL (1778-1837)
Piano and Violin Concerto Op.17 (1804) [36:44]
Violin Concerto (completed Gregory Rose) (1806) [27:29]
Alexander Trostiansky (violin)
Polina Osetinskaya (piano)
Russian Philharmonic Orchestra/Gregory Rose
Rec. Studio 5, Russian State TV and Radio Company KULTURA, Moscow in September 2004. DDD
NAXOS 8.557595 [64:21]

Hummel’s life straddled most of Beethoven’s and all of Schubert’s, and he knew them both well – bearing Beethoven’s coffin and organising the memorial concert. A pianist, he received the dedication of Schubert’s great final trilogy of piano sonatas. His music seems to bear little of these potential influences, retaining much more in common with Haydn and Mozart. He composed a fair number of concertos, mostly for the piano. Stephen Hough’s superb disc of the A minor and B minor concertos (CHAN8507) is the best place to start and his trumpet concerto is also splendid.

This disc brings together two much rarer works including an incomplete violin concerto. It seems that Hummel was writing this work at about the time Beethoven completed his sole foray into the genre (1806) and their rivalry may have led to its remaining unfinished. The solo part was entire and the concerto has been completed by conductor Gregory Rose whose tasks were to add to the instrumentation (the orchestra remains small, lacking in clarinets, trumpets or timpani) and cadenzas, and edit the whole. This version was first performed in London in 1998. The work is formally unremarkable although it should be noted that the central adagio is very brief.

The concerto for violin and piano which opens the disc is an unusual format indeed - the only other example of the genre in my collection is by Martinů! It is interesting that it was written in same year as Beethoven’s triple concerto (which is the same format plus a cello soloist) although there is no Beethovenian grandeur here, rather much Mozartian grace. After an orchestral introduction, the unwary might assume that this is a piano concerto initially. However, when the violin does enter the piano often takes a decorative backseat and the two soloists rarely combine as equals. In the finale the piano begins with a notable opening solo. This work does not require great virtuosity from either soloist but listening to it is a pleasant way to spend half an hour or so. If I understood the notes correctly, Gregory Rose also contributed a cadenza to the finale of this work although the attribution seems to have been misplaced on the back liner.

Both concertos receive decent enough performances from the Russian forces. The soloists do not overplay their hand and there is good rapport between them in the double concerto. The recorded sound is a bit disappointing – it is not absolutely crystal clear and the violin is rather too forwardly balanced in both concertos. The documentation includes authoritative notes by Gregory Rose. One oddity is that nowhere is the key of either work indicated - I would suspect that both are in G major.

This is a logical, interesting coupling and a worthwhile bargain.

Patrick C Waller


see also review by Jonathan Woolf


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