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Johann Nepomuk HUMMEL (1778-1837)
Piano Quartet in G Op.posth [17:18]
Piano Trio in G Op.35 (1811) [15:12]
Grande Sonata in A for Cello and Piano Op.104 (1826) [23:26]
Piano Trio in F Op.22 (1807) [13:26]
The Music Collection: Susan Alexander-Max (fortepiano), Micaela Comberti (violin), Simon Standage (violin), Jane Rogers (viola), Pal Banda (cello)
rec. Weston Parish Church, Hertfordshire in June 2002 and March 2003 DDD
NAXOS 8.557694 [69:22]



Hummel’s music is tuneful and pleasurable listening. He is a composer who seems to be doing rather well on disc at the moment – within the past year or two Chandos has been recording his choral music, Naxos has issued several discs and Hyperion has reissued the String Quartets and Septets on their budget Helios label. Back in April I reviewed another recording of the most substantial work on this disc – the Grande Sonata, also on the Naxos label with Franz Bartolomey as the cellist (see review). In February 2005 Don Satz reviewed with great enthusiasm a complete set of the Piano Trios played by the Trio Parnassus (see review).

One point of particular interest about this disc lies in the use of fortepianos. For the trios a reproduction of an instrument by Michael Rosenberger dated 1795 was used. For the other works Susan Alexander-Max played a reproduction of an instrument by Nanette Streicher dated 1814. The sound is quite different and considerably more substantial from the later instrument. Information about the other instruments is not provided but they sound “modern”.

The disc opens with the posthumously published two-movement Piano Quartet. A fairly short Andante leads to a much more substantial Allegro con spirito. The latter is taken at quite a broad tempo – perhaps too much so for the marking.

The two Piano Trios are the second and third in a series of seven. Both are in a conventional three movement format with the G major work having a central minuet, the F major an Andante. The latter has a series of variations with prominence rotating between the instruments. The subsequent finale is marked Rondo alla turca. These performances are spirited and enjoyable.

The Cello Sonata is very grand sounding in this performance, partly a result of tempi which tend to be on the slow side and partly relating to the big sound of Pal Banda’s cello. His tone is impeccable and there is good rapport with Susan Alexander-Max. Overall, compared to Franz Bartolomey’s performance, honours are about even and choice can safely rest on couplings and one’s reaction to the sound of the fortepiano.

The sound quality on this disc is natural and the instruments are generally well-balanced in a rather resonant acoustic. The accompanying notes are good far as they go but could perhaps have done more to put the works played here in the wider context of Hummel’s chamber music. I had to “Google” to find out (from MusicWeb!) about the existence of Hummel’s other piano trios.

Overall, this is fair value and an inexpensive way of sampling the music on offer.  Don Satz’s review suggests that if the Piano Trios are of particular interest it would be better to go straight to the Trio Parnassus.

Patrick C Waller

see also Review by Jonathan Woolf









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