Movement 1: Allegro moderato
Movement 2: Adagio maestoso
Movement 3: Presto
The Sonata in F minor, Op 20 (1807) marks as much of an advance in appropriating an individual voice as Op 13 does from Op 2. It was written in Eisenstadt where Hummel had taken up the post of Kapellmeister to Prince Esterhazy in succession to Haydn. Though the opening bars of the first movement (Allegro moderato) might be mistaken for a passage from a Mozart piano concerto, there is little use of the Alberti bass – that mainstay of the classical sonata – and, right from the outset, a freer, more improvisatory tone than either Mozart or Haydn conceded; the patterns are irregular, there are abrupt tempo changes (a bar of Adagio before a new Allegro agitato early in the exposition) and a rather self-conscious polyphony. Though this is the least difficult sonata to play from a technical point of view, Hummel introduces many passages of great brilliance, already looking forward to the formidable challenges of the concertos. A contemporary review in the Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung commented unfavourably on the length of the slow middle movement (Adagio maestoso) and found little in the sonata that might justify the effort to master its difficulties (the reviewer even suggested that the score might be an arrangement rather than original keyboard music). There is certainly plenty to keep nimble fingers occupied in the Presto finale with its whirling triplets and Scarlattian left-hand crossed-hand leaps. Ancor più presto, urges Hummel, for the sonata’s closing pages in the major tonic.
from notes by Jeremy Nicholas © 2003