Johann Nepomuk HUMMEL (1778
Sonata for pianoforte and violin in F, op. 5,2 [16:54]
Sonata for pianoforte and viola in E flat, op. 5,3 [23:37]
Sonata for pianoforte and violin in B flat, op. 5,1 [22:21]
Michael Jarvis (fortepiano), Paul Luchkow (violin, viola)
rec. 21-23 June 2011, private residence, Greater Vancouver (British
Columbia), Canada. DDD
MARQUIS MAR 81419 [62:53]
Johann Nepomuk Hummel is a composer whose oeuvre is in the process
of being rediscovered. He is still in the shadows of the Viennese
classical masters, Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven. That said, his
list of recordings is considerable, and continues to grow. Among
his most popular works are his piano concertos and piano trios.
The third of the three sonatas op. 5 has been recorded several
times. That may well be to do with the fact that it is scored
for viola. As there are not that many solo pieces for this instrument
it is understandable that this sonata has entered the repertoire
of viola players. Thepresent recording seems to be the first
of the whole set if I am to believe ArkivMusic.
Hummel is often considered a rather conservative composer. That
might well explain why his music was so soon forgotten after
his death. He was the last great representative of the classical
style, and during his life he held Mozart - who was his teacher
for some years - in high esteem. It was the emergence of the
romantic piano virtuosos which led to his downfall. Even so,
the likes of Liszt and Chopin played his music, and the latter
was influenced by Hummel in his own compositions for the piano.
Hummel was also on friendly terms with many great composers
of the next generation, such as Schumann, Schubert and Weber.
In some respects he was quite modern. He advocated the use of
equal temperament and a universal standard pitch which would
make the life of travelling musicians much easier. Considering
the continuing debate on intellectual property rights it is
interesting that Michael Jarvis, in his liner-notes, mentions
that Hummel championed these rights as well as musicians' copyright.
That is reason enough for his name to be held in high esteem.
The three sonatas on this disc bear witness to Hummel's preference
for the classical style. If you like your Mozart, you will certainly
enjoy these pieces as well. They date from around 1798 and are
in three movements. Most of these are in a moderate tempo. Moderation
seems to be the name of the game here, as Jarvis underlines.
Romantic rubato is absent; Jarvis refers to Czerny who stated
that Hummel himself played in such a way that "the tempo was
so constant that you could let a metronome beat to it". Hummel
is also very specific in his instructions in regard to articulation
and dynamics. The second movement of the Sonata in F
is an andantino con grand' espressione. This expression
is achieved by the two instruments playing sotto voce e legato
These performances have two features which I especially appreciate.
Firstly, the recording was made in a private residence. The
acoustic is pretty dry, but also has a great amount of intimacy.
As a listener you sit very close to the performers, and this
could well reflect the way this kind of repertoire was played
in Hummel's days. For that reason no detail is lost. Secondly,
these sonatas are specifically scored for keyboard and violin
or viola, in that order. It means that the fortepiano has the
lead, and that has been strictly observed in this recording.
Everyone who regularly listens to this kind of repertoire will
know that this is often ignored, and the melody instrument is
given too dominant a position. The two instruments also blend
wonderfully well, partly due to the lack of a wide vibrato in
the violin and the viola.
Michael Jarvis plays an anonymous instrument with Viennese action
of around 1800. It has a bassoon stop which is obviously not
used here. The moderator is effectively switched on in the second
movement of the Sonata in F mentioned before. The damper
pedal is sparingly used because Hummel had a conservative view
as to its use, and there are no pedal indications in the scores.
These things confirm that we have here two very sensitive artists
who really want the music to speak as it was intended by Hummel.
The intimate surroundings not only reflect the historical conditions,
they also fit the approach of these performers who have delivered
a compelling interpretation which makes a lasting impression.
Johan van Veen