Johann Nepomuk Hummel (1778-1837)

Episodes

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01Hummel And Mozart20130513

Donald Macleod explores Hummel's early years, when he was the favourite pupil of Mozart.

Described as the Napoleon of the Piano, Chopin said he was one of the three greatest masters alongside Mozart and Beethoven. This week, Donald Macleod explores the life and music of Johann Nepomuk Hummel. At the height of his career, Hummel was the most expensive teacher in Germany, whose virtuosic performances as a pianist had audiences standing on their seats to get a better view. He was the favourite pupil of Mozart, and seen in his day as Haydn's musical heir. Robert Schumann shyly wrote to Hummel asking for lessons, whilst Franz Schubert dedicated his last three piano sonatas to him. Hummel's life wasn't all fame and glory. He had to rely significantly on royal patrons for survival and relations with these benefactors often deteriorated into heated disputes. At the height of his power, he campaigned for a uniform copyright law allowing future composers to be paid for performances of their music, and his work as a pianist and teacher established principles which are still followed today.

Johann Nepomuk Hummel came from a musical background, and his talent was quickly recognised. As a boy he played both piano and violin, but one street performance led to a fight with another boy, and Hummel clouted the lad over the head with his violin and smashed it to bits. Hummel may have been reticent about playing the violin from this point, but he still composed for the instrument, including his Sonata for Piano and Violin Concertanti.

Hummel was soon introduced to Mozart, who allowed the young boy to live with him for around two years. Here, Hummel learned more about music and met many famous people. Hummel and Mozart often played piano duets together and Hummel would go on to compose a number of piano duets, including his Piano Sonata in A flat, Op.92.

The piano would become very significant in Hummel's career as a teacher, performer and composer. He wrote numerous piano sonatas and concertos. However, Hummel was also interested in composing for other, less conventional, instruments, such as his Mandolin Concerto in G.

01In The Company Of Giants *20051226

Donald Macleod examines the fluctuating reputation of Hummel, a composer who was once ranked alongside Beethoven.

Hallelujah

Emmy Destinn (soprano)

Piano Quintet, Op 87, Finale (Allegro agitato)

The Schubert Ensemble of London

Sonata No 5 in F sharp m, Op 81

Stephen Hough (piano)

Trumpet Concerto

John Wallace (trumpet)

The Philharmonia Orchestra

Christopher Warren-Green (director).

02Hummel And Haydn20130514

Donald Macleod focuses on Hummel's work for Prince Esterhazy of Hungary.

Described as the Napoleon of the Piano, Chopin said he was one of the three greatest masters alongside Mozart and Beethoven. This week Donald Macleod explores the life and music of Johann Nepomuk Hummel.

Hummel was making quite a name for himself, and was now in close contact with Haydn. It was Haydn who supported Hummel in applying for a number of royal positions, and he was eventually appointment Director of Music to Haydn's own patron, Prince Esterhazy. The Prince had already become acquainted with the music of Hummel, in particular his Trumpet Concerto in E flat, which remains the composer's calling card today.

Hummel's contract to the Prince gave him a good salary and lodging at the palace of Eisenstadt, where he was required to take over a number of duties from Papa Haydn. However, Haydn was a hard act to follow and young Hummel found himself resented amongst his colleagues, and was soon at loggerheads with the Prince. Part of Hummel's duties during this time were to compose a number of sacred works for Prince Esterhazy. These include the Mass in B flat major, which pleased the Prince greatly.

02Wunderkind *20051227

Mozart became one of Hummel's first teachers, and Hummel was soon following in the footsteps of his mentor to become the latest prodigy to take Europe by storm.

Presented by Donald Macleod.

Capriccio

Giuliana Corni (piano)

Trio, Op 35

Trio Parnassus

Piano Sonata No 1, Op 2a, No 3

Ian Hobson (piano)

Mass, Op 80 (Sanctus, Benedictus & Agnus Dei)

Susan Gritton (soprano)

Ann Murray (mezzo)

James Gilchrist (tenor)

Stephen Varcoe (baritone)

Collegium Musicum 90

Richard Hickox (conductor).

03Going Solo *20051228

Hummel's growing reputation as a composer went alongside rather more erratic fortunes in his professional career.

Then, as the Congress of Vienna brought Europe's leaders to his doorstep, he was persuaded to revive his activities as a performer.

With Donald Macleod.

6 Waltzes for the Apollo Saal, Op 91, No 1

Anthony Goldstone, Caroline Clemmow (piano duet)

Clarinet Quartet in E flat, 2nd Movt (La seccatura)

Fabrizio Meloni (clarinet)

Andrea Pecolo (violin)

Luca Ranieri (viola)

Mario Finotti (cello)

Piano Concerto in Am, Op 85, 1st movt.

(Allegro moderato)

Stephen Hough (piano)

English Chamber Orchestra

Bryden Thomson (conductor)

String Quartet in C, Op 30, No 1

The Delmé Quartet.

03Hummel And Beethoven20130515

Donald Macleod focuses on Hummel's career in Vienna, where he met Beethoven.

Described as the Napoleon of the Piano, Chopin said he was one of the three greatest masters alongside Mozart and Beethoven. This week Donald Macleod explores the life and music of Johann Nepomuk Hummel.

Hummel soon found himself returning to Vienna, dismissed by Prince Esterhazy in 1811. One bone of contention was that Hummel spent too much time writing stage works to be performed in Vienna instead of carrying out his official duties at Eisenstadt. One such stage work was Hummel's opera, Mathilde von Guise, about a fictitious princess who wishes to marry below her station.

In was in Vienna that Hummel met Beethoven and the two developed a rocky friendship. Soon, Hummel got married to a famous singer of the day, Elizabeth Rockel. This caused further tension between the two composers, as Beethoven may have had romantic designs on Rockel as well. Elizabeth would go on to sing a number of Hummel's songs, of which he composed many, including his Air a la Tirolienne with variations.

Hummel didn't remain in Vienna long and, with the support of his wife, started to tour as a pianist again. His name was becoming more recognised around Europe and, with this success, came the offer of a new position to the Wurttemberg Court in Stuttgart in 1816. He wowed the Stuttgart audiences with his piano playing, possibly with one of his recent compositions, the Piano Concerto in A minor Op.85.

04Hummel And Weimar20130516

Donald Macleod traces Hummel's move from Stuttgart to Weimar.

Described as the Napoleon of the Piano, Chopin said he was one of the three greatest masters alongside Mozart and Beethoven. This week Donald Macleod explores the life and music of Johann Nepomuk Hummel.

Whilst at the court in Stuttgart, Hummel had the luxury of working with one of the best orchestras in Germany, that included the virtuoso bassoonist Anton Romberg. It may well have been during this period that Hummel and Romberg performed the composers Grande Concerto in F for Bassoon and Orchestra. However, Hummel was not destined to stay long in Stuttgart as his relations with the authorities deteriorated to a point of no return.

By 1819, Hummel was appointed Master of Music to the Grand Duke of Weimar, where he'd remain for the rest of his life. Hummel's responsibilities were mainly to conduct the court orchestra, most often in the performance of opera. Hummel didn't promote many of his own stage works during his time in Weimar, although he'd composed many theatrical works including music for the ballet The Magic Castle.

Hummel's contract at Weimar allowed him greater freedom than any of this previous court positions had. He was given regular time off each year to tour as a concert pianist, including travelling to Russia where he met John Field, and to Warsaw where he met Chopin. His name became well known far and wide, and Hummel soon found himself propositioned by an Edinburgh businessman to set some Scottish folksongs including, For the sake o' Somebody.

04Settling Down *20051229

Family responsibilities led Hummel to take a permanent position at the court of Weimar, where he befriended Goethe and launched his most successful tours yet.

Presented by Donald Macleod.

Piano Septet No 1, Op 74, 3rd Movt (Andante con variazioni)

Capricorn

Nocturne, Theme and Variations, Op 99

Yaara Tal, Andreas Groethuysen (piano)

Amusement for Violin & Piano, Op 108

Triangulus

Gesellschafts-Rondo, Op 117

Howard Shelley (piano/director)

London Mozart Players.

05 LASTHummel's Final Years20130517

Donald Macleod focuses on Hummel's final years, when he composed a number of sacred works.

Described as the Napoleon of the Piano, Chopin said he was one of the three greatest masters alongside Mozart and Beethoven. This week, Donald Macleod explores the life and music of Johann Nepomuk Hummel.

Hummel was now famous all over Europe. The composer Robert Schumann wrote to Hummel asking for lessons although, by this stage, Hummel was minimising his teaching activities to focus on composition. Hummel did continue to tour throughout Europe, offering audiences works like his Rondo Brillant Op.98 and his Septet in C, nicknamed as "The Military". However, the older Hummel got, the less popular his concerts became. He was increasingly considered old-fashioned compared to popular new musical tastes such as the Paganini craze.

Towards the end of his life, Hummel worked hard to improve the situation of his musicians at Weimar, and also their widows and orphans, organising and giving regular concerts to generate money for them. By March 1837, Hummel gave his last public performance. Hummel composed a number of sacred works such as his Missa Solemnis in C. At his memorial concert, an unknown mass by the composer was performed.

Hummel set the benchmark for future pianists and also campaigned tirelessly for the uniformity of musical copyright laws in Germany. Goethe, a friend of Hummel's at Weimar, considered the composer to be the Napoleon of the Piano. One of Hummel's greatest works, which has kept his name famous today, is his Piano Sonata in F sharp minor.

05 LASTSwan Song20051230

As Hummel doggedly held fast to the artistic ideals of his teachers, Haydn and Mozart, he was left behind by a musical world that was plunging headlong into the romantic era.

With Donald Macleod.

I Saw Thee Weep (arr Hummel)

Wolfgang Holzmair (baritone)

Thomas Plam (piano)

Hummel: Variations, Op 115

Howard Shelley (piano & conductor)

London Mozart Players

Hummel: Quod in orbe

Czech Philharmonic Choir Brno

Orchestra of the Vienna Academy

Martin Haselböck (conductor)