I have heard Binns’
twofer of late Beethoven in this series
(EXP0001/2) and I found it more interesting
for the instruments it presented than
for Binns’ interpretations. When I heard
this pianist at the Wigmore
in 2003, I was massively disappointed
- the programme included Beethoven’s
Op. 110, interestingly. This Hummel
disc, though, goes some way to rebalancing
The first surprise
for the uninitiated might be the dark
cloud that hangs over the F sharp minor.
Hummel’s music is often seen as rather
light and undemanding. Neither description
fits here. Binns’ fluent fingers have
no problems with any of the technical
demands and there are plenty. But it
is in the quasi-operatic scena that
is the slow movement - ‘Largo con molt’espressione’
- that Binns approaches the outstanding.
Staccato/legato contrasts of touch are
most effective at around 2:30 and just
before. There are some tremendous flights
of fantasy here.
The finale is very
lively, with an almost Hungarian feel
- acciaccaturas abound. Strangely, and
interestingly, it contains a contrastive
fugal passage that becomes positively
Beethovenian with the bass entry at
around 1:50. Overall this is great fun
and even quite virtuoso.
The instrument Binns
uses is by the Moravian Georg Haschka
(1772-1828). It has a robust sound with
a glistening treble.
There is a clever link
between the instrument for Op. 106 and
the composer. Binns plays a Carl Schmidt
Viennese-type piano of around 1830.
Schmidt, like Hummel, came from Pressburg.
This piano was produced around the time
Hummel produced his treatise on piano
playing. We are told that Binns has
kept as closely as possible to Hummel’s
tenets. The sound as captured on this
recording is a little harsh, which is
quite fitting given the generally sparser
textures of Op. 106. Under Binns’ fingers,
the more reflective parts of the first
movement become a dream.
informs the second movement, entitled,
‘Un Scherzo all’antico’, something set
in full relief by the tripping-along,
so-sweet Trio. None of this really prepares
the listener for the intensity of the
Larghetto; luckily the piano has the
capability to sustain the long lines
and to allow the textures to blossom.
If anyone tries to convince you that
Hummel is a lightweight, just play them
A timely reminder,
then, of just how fine - if not great
- a composer Hummel actually was. Stephen
Hough has been doing sterling work in
this field for Hyperion also. The more
the merrier, I say.