Johann Nepomuk HUMMEL (1778-1837)
Septet in D minor Op.74 (c.1816) [33:44]
Charles Henry WILTON (1761-1832)
Six String Trios (1783): No. 1 [10:21]: No. 3 [8:43]: No.6 [9:07]
Septet: Franz Holetschek (piano), Camille Wanausek (flute), Rudolph
Spurny (oboe), Franz Koch (horn), Günther Breitenbach (viola); Nicholas
Hubner (cello); Joseph Duron (bass) ¹
Trios: Jean Pougnet (violin), Frederick Riddle (viola), Anthony
rec. early 1950s
FORGOTTEN RECORDS FR 278 [61:59]
For many years Hummel’s Septet was one of the few works by
which he was at all known. This was certainly true, in recording
terms, in the early 1950s when this LP of it was made. It has
been restored to the catalogue after long absence by Forgotten
Records, a French label specialising in vintage LPs and their
expert transfer to CD. There are no notes, just a card inlay
with web links. But what good stuff they put out!
The Septet, which was also written in a version for string quintet,
is played by a fine ensemble of which the most outstanding playing
comes from the piano, played by the excellent Franz Holetschek.
This is one noteworthy example of primus inter pares
in the chamber repertoire and the dazzling array of pianistic
roulades, quasi-theatrical incursions, and cadential spotlighting
adds lustre. The other instruments all have their moments, of
course, but since this was a work that Liszt used to play—and
apparently his own embellishments were pervasive and dramatic—the
main focus does rest with the keyboard.
If you are unsympathetic to the kind of flourishes to be found
throughout this work, then you will naturally reject it. If
however you have a yen for Viennese bravura and for the kind
of charm and elegance that Hummel serves us in the Minuet
and Scherzo, with its caressing melodies, then you will
be highly pleased. The slow movement has a series of variations
of which the slowest, with stalking bass line over which the
piano slides and its confreres join in, is the most striking.
All the combatants launch into the elegant fugal passage in
the finale with great panache. There’s a chance here for the
cello to shine, revealing a good cantilena. This early LP is
a little boxy but its tendency to distort has been mitigated
in the first class transfer.
The coupling is unusual. Even diehard British music aficionados
would be hard pressed to tell you anything about Charles Henry
Wilton (1761-1832). Hyperion has, however, of late released
a disc with a couple of his anthems. Back in the 1950s you would
have had to make do with three of his six string trios, played
by the most illustrious string trio Britain has yet produced;
that of Jean Pougnet, Frederick Riddle and Anthony Pini. Wilton’s
1783 trios are compact and high spirited, and brilliantly played.
The interplay in the Allegro scherzando of the First
trio is excellently realised, whilst the noble affetuso
of the central movement of the Third is lovely. Don’t forego,
either, the pleasures of the subtly realised drone effects in
the finale. The Sixth trio is high energy, and a calorifically
tasty piece of work.
Incidentally this august ensemble also recorded the string trios
of Beethoven, Berkeley, Dohnányi, Françaix, Haydn and Hindemith
on LP. The brilliant Moeran trio recording of 1941 was on 78s,
and has already been transferred to CD.
Full marks to this label for continuing to explore the byways
of the LP catalogue, and for returning with rich fare such as