ALBUM TITLE: Hummel: Piano Trios
WORKS: Piano Trio No. 2 in F, Op. 22; Piano Trio No. 5 in E, Op. 83; Piano Trio No. 6 in E flat, Op. 93; Piano Trio No. 1 in E flat, Op. 12; Piano Trio No. 3 in G, Op. 35; Piano Trio No. 4 in G, Op. 65; Piano Trio No. 7 in E flat, Op. 96
PERFORMER: Voces Intimae: Luigi de Filippi (violin), Sandro Meo (cello), Riccardo Cecchetti (fortepiano)
CATALOGUE NO: 2564 62595-2 & 2564 62596-2
These seven splendid works call into question New Grove’s damning faint praise – that Hummel’s music ‘reached the highest level accessible to one who lacks ultimate genius’. They bridge the gap between Hummel’s early teacher Mozart, and Mendelssohn, whom Hummel briefly taught in turn, and show classical restraint, Italian lyricism and great clarity of texture. This last quality reportedly characterised Hummel’s playing, though his virtuosity was formidable – audiences stood on their seats
the better to see his double trills.
The clarity in this recording is greatly enhanced by the piano.
It’s an 1815 original by Salvatore Lagrassa, a Sicilian maker of Viennese pianos, notable for their light touch and transparent tone.
It has been excellently restored, even-toned throughout but retaining contrasting colours in its different registers. The opening of the First Trio shows these well – warmly rippling in its middle-range, then a flute-like top register, while the Turkish Rondo finale of No. 7 invites it to growl fiercely in the bass. Matching violin and cello provide strongly differentiated yet complementary voices, helped by depth in the recorded perspective, with piano just behind the strings.
As an alternative, the 1987-88 recording by Trio Parnassus
(MDG 303 0307-2) is deservedly still available, fluent, polished, and their more distant sound closer integrated. They’re faster in all 14 outer movements, so superficially more exciting. But from the strikingly Mozartian opening of No. 3, through beguilingly simple variations (the second movement of No. 2), to the larger-scale tonal range and stormier expression of No. 5, the colours and distinctive ‘voices’ of Voces Intimae are a revelation. George Pratt