Hummel’s Cello Sonata in A major, Op 104, dates from the final phase of his career, when, despite continuing a busy touring career that took him as far afield as France, Poland and Russia, he had in 1819 settled into a comfortable life as Kapellmeister in Weimar. Here he and the aged Goethe were among the reasons drawing visitors to the town, over which presided the Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna, daughter of the Tsar of Russia and one of Hummel’s composition pupils. In January 1824 he wrote and dedicated to her what the first edition described as his ‘Grande sonate pour Pianoforte et Violoncelle’. The qualifications to the opening Allegro—amabile e grazioso—could be said to describe the whole work. It is less a piece for virtuosos than for musical companions, amiable and graceful, with the opening cello song decorated by the piano. In the charming Romanze, the first word goes to the piano, with a melody later given gently varied treatment and a more assertive middle section. As with the final Rondo, there is an element of Hummel looking back over his long career, past his virtuoso achievements, to his classical origins; but the cheerful, extrovert closing pages serve as a reminder that Hummel had indeed been one of the most exuberant and impressive of pianists.
from notes by John Warrack © 2006