Hummel: Piano Quintet in E flat, Op. 87; Piano Trio in E flat, Op. 12; Sonata in E flat for Piano & Viola, Op. 5/3

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COMPOSERS: Hummel
LABELS: ASV Gaudeamus
WORKS: Piano Quintet in E flat, Op. 87; Piano Trio in E flat, Op. 12; Sonata in E flat for Piano & Viola, Op. 5/3
PERFORMER: The Music Collection
CATALOGUE NO: CD GAU 210
Nowadays it matters not a jot that Hummel, and his compositional language, fell out of fashion in the early 19th century. Re-emerging two centuries on, his music reveals great lyrical charm and subtle passion. Three substantial works are played here with profound sympathy for style and period. Specially noteworthy are the pianos used by Susan Alexander-Max, the first a restored Erard of 1846. Its translucent tone shines through (if a little too far behind) the novel quartet of strings – violin, viola, cello and bass – in Op. 87, a sunny quintet despite its frequent excursions into the minor mode. Moments are breathtakingly beautiful – the opening movement’s second subject is one of those uplifting turns of phrase worthy of Mozart, who was indeed Hummel’s first teacher.

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For the sonata for ‘Piano with Accompaniment of Viola’, Alexander-Max plays a copy by Derek Adlam of a 1798 Viennese fortepiano. The coloration of the various registers is even more striking here: the bass richly bassoon-like, the middle range delicate yet warm, the treble silvery – creating, with solo viola, a virtual quartet of timbres from the two instruments. Clarkson is an eloquent violist, notably in the drama and dark keys of the first movement’s development section.

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Exemplary playing of captivating music. George Pratt