Movement 1: Allegro
Movement 2: Largo con molt' espressione
Movement 3: Vivace
The first movement (Allegro) surges dramatically, pauses to reflect, rushes onwards with sparkling passagework, lingers introspectively before roaring on again – a stylistic mélange of writing that more closely resembles a fantasy than a formally structured sonata first movement (there is no exposition repeat, for example). Clementi was famous for his rapid passages in thirds (Mozart addressed his own inferiority in this respect by never writing such passages), a skill which he clearly passed on to his pupil, and Hummel’s episodes of con brio semiquaver runs in fourths and thirds must have challenged many others besides Schumann (Hummel’s B minor concerto written in the same year as this sonata, and the A minor concerto of 1821 are no less intimidating).
The slow movement (Largo con molt’espressione) opens not with a gentle sigh but an angry outburst (fortissimo), the first of a series of unexpected explosions that punctuate it. Hummel’s novel pianistic decoration during its course offers a fascinating anticipation of Chopin’s, even if its thematic material is less memorable. Jolting us abruptly from this meandering reverie comes the striking opening subject of the finale (Vivace), an impulsive folk-like dance. This, at last, is Hummel with the gloves off, the athletic writing on occasion using the entire compass of the keyboard in a single measure, making all kinds of cruel demands on the player, not least in stamina. Hummel provides two brief intervals of quiet relief (one a fugal passage in the major tonic) in an otherwise relentless drive to the thrilling conclusion.
from notes by Jeremy Nicholas © 2003