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Johann Nepomuk HUMMEL (1778-1837)
Piano Quintets: D minor (1816) [39:39]; E flat minor, Op. 87 (1802) [23:29]
Vienna Piano Quintet (Yoko Fog Urata (piano);
Peter Wächter (violin); Helmut Weiss (viola); Jörgen Fog (cello); Manfred Hecking (double-bass))
rec. Studio Baumgarten, Vienna, 25-27 May 2004. DDD
CAMERATA CM-28055 [63:21] 


The Piano Quintet in D minor is actually a transcription of a better-known piece - better known for Hummel, that is - the Septet in D minor, Op. 74. I was brought up on the CRD/Nash Ensemble LP, currently on CRD 3344, a version full of light and space. All credit to the Vienna Piano Quintet for treating their reduced version as if it is a pure work for their forces, and as a result giving an account of high strength as well as sparkle; try the second movement for oodles of the latter. The pianist, Yoko Fog Urata, is fluent and her tone, on the Bösendorfer, is light and yet not insubstantial. 

The string instrumentalists play with great character. Try the contrasting section of the second movement, for example, which seems set to move into a cross between Ländler and Lullaby at any second! The Andante con Variazioni third movement exudes charm with only a suspicion of heaviness to the statement of the theme. The finale seems rather earth-bound though. As other performances reveal this not to be the case, the performers must take the blame. The cello melody just before the two-minute mark is lovely, however - beautifully accompanied by the piano, as well. 

The E flat minor work is 'pure' Hummel, and not only in the sense of being a non-recycled piece. Despite the key signature, it is clear that skies will not remain darkened for long, or if they do then the darkening is not too serious. There are some über-approachable tunes here, to balance the moments when things threaten to become too brow-furrowed. 

Again, the Menuetto comes second. Not many minuets are marked 'Allegro con fuoco', though. Despite the marking, the Vienna ensemble is quick without much fire, preferring to stay on the playful path; the tossing about of small fragments between piano and strings presumably swung the balance. It is interesting how the Largo begins as if it is to consider great things – but it only lasts 2:49 and so is more of an introduction into the Allegro agitato finale. The Vienna Piano Quintet capture the finale's spirit well. The theme threatens to move into joviality at any semiquaver, yet Hummel reins it into the prevailing agitato mood. This is a performance that contends realistically with the Schubert Ensemble of London's account on Hyperion Dyad. 

The recording is good without being outstanding - very occasionally there is a tendency towards crowding in the rare thicker textures - but do not let that put you off a most appealing release. 

Colin Clarke 



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