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Hyperion Records

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Tree in autumn overlooking a valley by Hans Thoma (1839-1924)
Track(s) taken from CDA66761/2
Recording details: August 1992
Unknown, Unknown
Produced by Tryggvi Tryggvason
Engineered by Tryggvi Tryggvason
Release date: September 1993
Total duration: 37 minutes 30 seconds

'Howard joue tout cela avec beaucoup de raffinement et un vrai sens du châtoiement sonore. De belles découvertes' (Répertoire, France)

Johann Nepomuk Hummels Grosses Septett {Nr. 1}, S493
circa 1816; Piano Septet No 1 in D minor, Op 74

Finale: Vivace  [8'09]

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Hummel’s famous Septets (the present work, and the ‘Military’ Septet) are, with no disrespect, piano works with instrumental backing. The D minor work was also issued as a piano quintet, and it was Liszt’s edition of the piano part for both instrumentations that led to the version recorded here. In fact, the published piano transcription and the piano part for the chamber work are printed as one, with a bewildering array of passages in small type, and dozens of alternative readings for when the ‘instrumental accompaniment’ is absent, or for when passages are repeated. So Liszt’s task in transcribing this work was of quite a different order from the Beethoven Septet transcription. But clearly this is a bar-for-bar account of Hummel’s work in which Hummel’s piano part forms the basis of the whole. The opening Allegro sounds in Liszt’s hands like the finest sonata allegro that Hummel never quite got around to writing himself, and Liszt’s technical wizardry complements Hummel’s own. And, like Mendelssohn’s fleetness of foot, Hummel’s metronome marks throughout make no allowances for any want of agility. What Hummel had in mind by including the word ‘menuetto’ in the title of the second movement can only be the object of wry speculation. His piano part leaps and decorates at a furious pace, and Liszt’s adroit addition of the instrumental parts, which have a life of their own in this movement, makes this a real test of one’s knowledge of keyboard geography. Even the Alternativo has logistical tricks to it. The variations are surely modelled upon those in the Beethoven Septet – the similarities of the themes and the figuration are uncanny – and Liszt is able to reorganize the texture by taking many passages where Hummel writes for the hands an octave apart into a single line and accommodating the other six parts amongst the spare fingers. The finale, which is commonly heard at a much slower rate than Hummel’s wishfully-thought 108 semibreves to the minute, combines elements of quick march and moto perpetuo in triplets in an almost relentless headlong rush, complete with fugal episodes, hindered only by the delightful lyricism of the second theme which is itself immediately subsumed in the rapid flow. Liszt does his level best to omit nothing, but the consequent tallness of the performing order has prevented this splendid work from obtaining anything like the popularity it deserves.

from notes by Leslie Howard © 1993

Other albums featuring this work
'Liszt: Complete Piano Music' (CDS44501/98)
Liszt: Complete Piano Music
MP3 £160.00FLAC £160.00ALAC £160.00Buy by post £200.00 CDS44501/98  99CDs Boxed set + book (at a special price)  
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