|Hummel: the pupil of Mozart and Haydn and Armide (1815)|
Every pianist should thank Johann Nepomuk Hummel (1778 - 1837) for his piano music.
His compositions for keyboard represents the most prominent evidence of the pianistic evolution from Mozart, Clementi, Haydn to Chopin, Schubert and Liszt.
Hummel, a child prodigy, was a pupil of Mozart, he was part of the same Haydn's circle and became the official successor of J. Haydn in Esterházy, the father of Liszt (another Esterházy employee) worked for and became friend of Haydn and Hummel and finally Hummel, thanks to Goethe, after Esterházy, became the Kapellmeister in Weimar (a fundamental position for the History of Music) and his successor, in Weimar, was Franz Liszt in person.
Hummel well understood and developed the great achievements of Clementi's technique (we know Hummel and Muzio Clementi met each other in London). Indeed, we can find, in his piano pieces, the same rationality and sense of symmetry of Muzio Clementi's pianism (and this rationality and this sense of symmetry will be the origin of the Lisztian technique, through Czerny, a pupil of Hummel), while Mozart's influence is evident in his amazing imagination in his technical writing.
Moreover the astonishing affinity between the mature piano concertos by Hummel and those by Chopin is well known, since Chopin's music has its profound roots, in reality, in that by Hummel.
Hummel's piano technique is a light technique, with rapid and brilliant passages and acrobatic challenges for the fingers: it is really interesting to consider that Sigismond Thalberg and Adolf von Henselt were both pupils of Hummel because their pianism shares the same light characteristics (while Liszt developed also a powerful technique, inspired by Beethoven's works, probably).
The Variations on a Theme from Armide, Op.57 (1815) by Johann Nepomuk Hummel is a magnificent and brilliant piano piece for a recital.
In this work Hummel displays a beautiful and sparkling art in the flourishing of the theme by Gluck.
We can hear Mozart's influence in Variation No. 7 and interesting affinities with the first compositions by Liszt (who admired Hummel) in Variations No. 5 and No. 6.
Probably, Variation No. 9 is the most delightful one in the work: a touching and full Romantic Adagio espressivo that shows Beethoven's legacy and anticipates Chopin's nocturnes and their amazing arabesques.
The last Variation, No. 10, leads us in the same enchanted and dreaming world of Jakob Ludwig Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy, who was another pupil of Johann Nepomuk Hummel, Hummel the real keystone in the musicological comprehension of the piano literature of the early 19th century from Chopin to Mendelssohn.
Johann Nepomuk Hummel, Variations on a Theme from Armide,
Variations on a Theme from Armide, Op.57 (http://imslp.org)
Howard Shelley, Piano
Madoka Inui, Piano
Christoph Hammer, Piano
Richard Burnett, Fortepiano
Fortepiano Recital - R. Burnett (http://naxosdirect.com)
S. & L.M. Jennarelli