ALBUM TITLE: Moscheles and Hummel
WORKS: Cello Sonata in A, Op. 104
PERFORMER: Jirí Bárta (cello), Hamish Milne (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 67521
It has been good to see Johann Nepomuk Hummel (1778-1837) getting the reappraisal he deserves in recent years. Now we are able to appreciate him, not just as an important influence on the later German romantics, but as composer of substance in his own right. But of the two sonatas on this delightful new disc it is undoubtedly the Moscheles E major that stands out. Dedicated to Schumann – who revered Moscheles – it is full of fine, memorable ideas, and shows such a flair for imaginative development and lyrical fantasy that one can readily understand Schumann’s enthusiasm. The lilting opening melody, with its piquant harmonic colouring, is the kind of tune that haunts the memory – even when you’re trying to get on with other musical tasks! The piano writing is brilliant in an entirely original way, but the cello is by no means subservient, and its interweaving with the piano is achieved with
great skill and sensitivity.
Then come the Moscheles-Bach pieces – not so much arrangements as tasteful reworkings of Bach with the cello, as it were, meditating on Bach’s ideas. The result is a good deal more subtle than the famous Bach-Gounod Ave Maria. The Hummel Sonata is relatively disappointing: pleasing, but undemanding – good Biedermeier salon music, but without the power and daring of Hummel’s best work. All the same, with such strong, sympathetic playing and clear, carefully-balanced recordings this Hyperion disc is a must for adventurous cellists and listeners alike. Stephen Johnson