Hummel: Piano Concerto in F, Op. posth. 1; Piano Concerto in A, S4/W24; Theme and Variations in F

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COMPOSERS: Hummel
LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Piano Concerto in F, Op. posth. 1; Piano Concerto in A, S4/W24; Theme and Variations in F
PERFORMER: London Mozart Players/Howard Shelley (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 9886
Although his later keyboard style prefigures Chopin, Mozart’s favourite pupil remained at heart an elegant Classicist; and by 1833, the year he premiered his last Piano Concerto in London, his music had come to seem hopelessly behind the times. Despite original touches like the dramatic, off-key piano entry (a Hummel speciality) and the doleful bassoon/cello duet in the slow movement, the F major Concerto tends to sound like Mozart grown prolix and faintly decadent, with the gracefully balanced themes overrun by flashy piano figuration. In the two earlier works Hummel filches from his former teacher with cheerful abandon: the perky, square-cut theme of the variations, for instance, is a cross between the finale of Mozart’s dubious wind Sinfonia concertante and Papageno’s ‘Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen’, while the first movement of the A major Concerto (probably dating from Hummel’s teens) shamelessly cribs from, inter alia, the finale of the Clarinet Trio. Still, if you don’t mind a sense of déjà entendu, you’ll find plenty to enjoy in Hummel’s ornate, urbanely crafted music. As ever, Howard Shelley proves a supremely eloquent advocate of the composer, with his refined, shapely phrasing, crystalline textures and aristocratic command of the glittering keyboard pyrotechnics. Richard Wigmore

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