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The Consort

Tom Cooper

Summer 2023

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart:
Symphony No.36 in C major, ‘Linz’, K.425
arranged for solo piano by Johann Nepomuk Hummel

HH564.SOL Edition HH, 2022
ISMN 979 0 708185 79 6

Symphony No. 40 in G minor, K.550
arranged for solo piano by Johann Nepomuk Hummel
HH531.SOL Edition HH, 2024
ISMN 979 0 708185 43 7


These two editions of transcriptions by Hummel are a very welcome addition to the extensive set of his arrangements of Mozart’s concertos and symphonies published by Edition HH. Hummel arranged them around 1823 and they were first published in London by Chappell & Co. Sarah Jenner has undertaken the editorship of the symphonies, as she has with Haydn’s symphonies (transcribed by Carl Stegmann) published by the same press, and the results are as fine as was the case with Haydn’s ‘London’ Symphony reviewed in last year’s edition of The Consort. Both texts are very well laid out and easy to read. Editorially they retain Hummel’s articulation and dynamics (which sometimes differ from those observable in the orchestral parts, which were first published in 1794), in addition to his metronome markings. As Jenner remarks in her extensive notes (duplicated in the copies of both symphonies), these ‘may be of interest to present-day performers of the orchestral versions of these symphonies’. The last two movements of the G minor symphony in particular have very fast metronome markings, of dotted minim=76 and minim=152 respectively. If taken literally these markings would be almost beyond the capabilities of most amateur pianists of the time, especially considering Hummel’s penchant for very rapid leaps, for example in bars 35-36 of the slow movement of K.550, marked at a brisk (though not impossible) quaver=116.

Hummel’s characteristically brilliant fingerwork is on fine display in the transcriptions, perhaps particularly in the final movement of the G minor symphony, as it is also in so many of his own compositions. What is noticeable in comparing Hummel’s and Stegmann’s transcriptions is that Hummel places much greater demands on the player than Stegmann: these are the work of a virtuoso pianist. The G minor symphony in particular might well have been close to Hummel’s heart – certainly the transcription evokes masterfully the orchestral sonorities of the original (scored for flute, 2 oboes, 2 bassoons, 2 horns and strings) by the use of different registers of the instrument. This is perhaps because Hummel was actually living with the Mozart family when K.550 (along with Don Giovanni and the other final symphonies, K.543 and K.551, in addition to many other works) was composed, and thus may have heard it first from Mozart himself.

As is well known, Hummel was a child prodigy and aged 8 was offered tuition in piano and composition by Mozart, staying in the family home (free of charge, modern conservatories should note, despite Mozart’s financial worries at the time) until 1788. In her editorial notes Jenner quotes a delightful diary entry of the actor Johann Joachim Pressler, who visited Mozart on Sunday 24 August 1788, just two weeks after Mozart had completed his final symphony, the sublime ‘Jupiter’. Pressler records that Mozart ‘twice extemporised on a pedal pianoforte, so wonderfully! that I quite lost myself’ and also noted that, while this was going on, ‘a pupil [probably Hummel himself, then aged 10] composed, and a little boy aged about four [probably Mozart’s son Karl Thomas] walked about in the garden and sang recitatives’. Constanze, meanwhile, ‘cut quill pens for the copyist’.

These editions of Hummel’s arrangements of the symphonies are fine examples of the important genre of piano transcription which made so many great masterpieces of the orchestral and operatic repertoire available to the rapidly growing number of amateur musicians of the time who were unable to hear them in their original form. As such, they are greatly to be treasured by anyone with an interest in the burgeoning piano repertoire of the 19th century.

We are grateful to the The Consort for permission to reproduce this review.
Add to shopping basketSymphony No. 36 ‘Haffner’ Add to shopping basketPlaying score

Add to shopping basketSymphony No. 36 ‘Linz’ Add to shopping basketPlaying score

Add to shopping basketSymphony No. 38 ‘Prague’ Add to shopping basketPlaying score
Symphony No. 40 will be published early 2024

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