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Johann Nepomuk HUMMEL (1778-1837)
Piano Trios - Volume 1

Piano Trio No.2 Op.22
Piano Trio No.5 Op.83
Piano Trio No.6 Op.93
Voces Intimae - Riccardo Cecchetti (fortepiano), Luigi De Filippi (violin), Sandro Meo (cello)
Recorded at Teldex Studio, Berlin, March 2004
THOROFON CTH 2510 [60.52]


Some of Hummel’s trios have been taken up over the years by major ensembles – the Borodins have recorded three for Chandos for instance – but recently I’m aware of only one widely available integral set, by the Parnassus Trio on MDG, who have given us all seven. The Beaux Arts set of Nos 1, 3, 4 and 7 on Philips seems now to have been deleted.

Though they are sometimes unequal in terms of melodic distinctiveness the trios are a microcosm of Hummel’s status as a forward looking, harmonically adventurous classicist – and it’s above all his gift for lyricism that elevates them beyond those chamber works of his less gifted contemporaries; another reason why they have retained a hold in the repertoire. Voces Intimae is an Italian original instrument ensemble and they bring new insights in terms of balance and matters timbral. Though they begin the Op.22 rather tentatively this is deceptive; the Allegro moderato builds up a head of fugal steam and stately brio is held in check. Similarly the rustic pizzicatos of the slow movement – a series of variations – show good characterisation as indeed does the elasticated (rubber bandy) sound the cellist generates in the finale. The trio does its best for the overlong and frankly over extended Allegro of Op.83 but they really score in the finale where they etch things with immediacy and colour; some rough edges here and elsewhere it’s true but the aim is for immediacy and character.

Op.93 is not as well known or as often performed as the slightly later No.7 (Op.96) and its rather inert fugal sections in the opening movement can come across as academic rather than inspired. But I liked this trio’s fleet tempo for the larghetto with elegantly reduced string dynamics and much attractive lyricism. There are occasional recording inconsistencies in balancing of the instruments and the notes don’t go into many specifics concerning the individual trios but these are relatively minor matters. Given that these are original instrument traversals they tend to stand apart from the Parnassus complete set but they have the merit of tangy sonorities and a keen ear for colour.

Jonathan Woolf

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