Hummel: Piano Sonata in E flat, Op. 13; Piano Sonata in F minor, Op. 20; Piano Sonata F sharp minor, Op. 81

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COMPOSERS: Hummel
LABELS: Naxos
WORKS: Piano Sonata in E flat, Op. 13; Piano Sonata in F minor, Op. 20; Piano Sonata F sharp minor, Op. 81
PERFORMER: Hae-Won Chang (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 8.553296
Though Hummel outlived Beethoven by ten years, he never fully embraced the new spirit of the early 19th century. Yet, a charming melodist and an imaginative harmonist, he is undeservedly little known. These three sonatas span most of his working life, to show the common threads of lyricism and tonal surprises – a Schubertian leap into unexpected territory in Op. 13’s otherwise rather predictable first movement; a tortuous opening to the dark musical narrative of Op. 81.

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The technical demands reflect Hummel’s own reputation as a piano virtuoso. The finale of Op. 13, including a banal yet haunting melody over repeated chords with unfulfilled promises of contrapuntal development, already requires a lot of facility, while the finale of Op. 81 involves really powerful pianism. Hae-Won Chang is a fine pianist. She sustains the tension of fast movements, bar a little loss of impetus towards the end of Op. 81. But she excels, as does Hummel, in the pensive slow movements – of Op. 13, strange rising harmony saturated in chromaticism; of Op. 81, reflective, peaceful, the best movement on the disc.

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Recorded sound of the Steinway piano is admirable, seating us comfortably in the front row of the stalls. A most promising ‘Volume 1’. George Pratt