ALBUM TITLE: Hummel
WORKS: Piano Concerto in A; L’Enchantment d’Oberon; Le retour a Londres; Eight Variations and Coda on ‘O du lieber Augustin’
PERFORMER: London Mozart Players/Howard Shelley (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 10374
The most striking piece here is the Fantaisie charactéristique based on material from Weber’s Oberon. Following a dramatic introduction, its centrepiece is a highly effective storm, complete with lightning flashes depicted by a piccolo. Once the storm subsides, we hear the melody towards which the whole piece has been striving – the curiously lopsided Turkish folk-tune from the third Act of Weber’s opera. There’s another dark-hued introduction in Le retour à Londres, written for Hummel’s London tour of 1831, and both pieces show how close his writing is to the salon manner of the youthful Chopin.
The A major Piano Concerto is considerably earlier, and the soloist’s surprise first appearance before the orchestral introduction has run its course owes a good deal to Mozart. So, too, does the lilting melody of the finale, which Hummel clearly remembered from Mozart’s great
B flat Concerto, K450. All these pieces, plus the purely orchestral variations on the tune of ‘O du lieber Augustin’ (which curiously throws in a ‘Turkish’ percussion ensemble), are vividly performed by the London Mozart Players, while pianist Howard Shelley throws off Hummel’s copious cascades of notes with appropriate panache. There’s nothing hugely memorable here, perhaps, but the music is attractive enough and Shelley’s virtuoso pianism is a
delight in itself. Misha Donat