HUMMEL (1778-1837) Le retour de Londres – Grand Rondeau brilliant, Op.127
Variations and Finale in B flat major, Op.115 (1830) [15:58] Oberons Zauberhorn, Op.116 (1829) [18:47]
Variations in F major, Op.97 (1820) [17:07]
Gävle Symphony Orchestra/Uwe Grodd
rec. Gävle Concert Hall, Gävle, Sweden, 16-20 January 2006. NAXOS 8.557845 [66:44]
a matter of days after their most recent Ries
disc, Christopher Hinterhuber and Uwe Grodd
give us what, I hope, is the first in a series of Hummel albums. There
are no concertos here, but this collection of four concert pieces
for piano and orchestra dating from 1820 to 1833 makes for an
attractive programme. Hummel’s virtuosic music calls for finesse
rather than barnstorming, and these cultivated artists know just
how to play it.
disc opens with the last of the works to be composed, the Grand
Rondeau brilliant – given the title Le retour de Londres in
the published score, but referred to as Le retour à Lourdes in
a letter to Moscheles. What’s in a name? This is no tone poem
depicting place; rather, it is a first class vehicle for expressive
pianism. The piece opens with a long-breathed introduction of
imposing grandeur before Hummel blows the clouds away with a fresh
breezy rondeau, full of smiles, sparkle and spice. Hinterhuber
trots stylishly and at a well judged pace through the virtuosic
writing and the orchestra under Grodd is sympathetically supportive.
longest piece in the programme, Oberons Zauberhorn, is
something of a tone poem in the form of a free fantasia. It was
inspired by Weber’s opera Oberon but quotes very little
of the opera’s musical material: Hummel uses little more than
Weber’s horn-call motif and in any case he more-or-less composes
his own. The piece is musically and dramatically satisfying,
veering from an atmosphere of mystery to an ebullient march; from
a fierce summer storm to a joyful close.
Variations and Finale in B flat major begin with a grand, almost
tragic larghetto before Hummel states his theme, a simple song
from the Berlin stage. What he does with the tune, though, is
anything but simple. Hummel reminds us in these variations of
his extraordinary improvisatory facility. They are far from simple
elaborations, but are ceaselessly charming. The earlier Variations
in F major which bring the disc to a close are more formally structured,
with the theme stated at the outset and the orchestra linking
the variations. I have to confess it is my least favourite of
the pieces on this disc. It seems stiff after the greater fluidity
of Hummel's conception in the three pieces that precede it. At
17 minutes, it also seems overlong. That said, there is certainly
nothing wrong with Hinterhuber's playing or the stylish accompaniment.
Badley again contributes a thoughtful set of liner notes and the
recorded sound at this venue is as good as ever.
already has an old ex-Marco Polo recording of Hummel’s two most
famous piano concertos, his Op.85 and Op.89, on its books. Perhaps
now is the time for them to re-record these pieces along with
the rest of Hummel’s half dozen or so piano concertos and other
concertante works. It would be next to impossible for anyone
to surpass Stephen Hough in Op.85 and Op.89 (CHAN 8507), but on
the evidence of this disc Hinterhuber and Grodd have something
to say about Hummel and it is something worth hearing.
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