Mozart: Symphonies 38-40 (Arr. by Hummel for Flute, Violin, Cello & Piano)

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MOZART (arr. Hummel) Symphonies Nos. 38–40 • Uwe Grodd (fl); Friedemann Eichhorn (vn); Martin Rummel (vc); Roland Krüger (pn) • NAXOS 8.572841 (75: 29) Early...
MOZART (arr. Hummel) Symphonies Nos. 38–40 Uwe Grodd (fl); Friedemann Eichhorn (vn); Martin Rummel (vc); Roland Krüger (pn) NAXOS 8.572841 (75: 29)

Early in his life—specifically, before he was even 10 years old—Johann Nepomuk Hummel lived and studied with Mozart, and is likely to have had extensive exposure to the elder composer’s musical “workshop,” if you will. As flutist Uwe Grodd’s booklet notes recount, Hummel never lost his deep respect for Mozart and his music. In 1823 and 1824, when he was commissioned to prepare arrangements of Mozart’s symphonies for the combination of flute, violin, viola, and piano, Hummel remained faithful to the original scores, in the sense that he did not alter harmonies or extend cadenzas, even after he had been asked to. He did, however, use a broader palette of dynamic markings than Mozart himself used. Mozart did not often use extreme dynamic markings or ask players to use crescendo effects … perhaps because he assumed that sensitive performers could be trusted to insert them themselves? In his chamber arrangements of Mozart’s symphonies, Hummel was very specific and more liberal with dynamic markings. He also added precise metronome markings, accents, and varied ornaments to be more in keeping with the customs of the era. (For example, Hummel’s trills begin on the main note, not on the note above it, as in Mozart’s time.) One cannot assume too much about the metronome markings, however, as the metronome in Hummel’s time was not as accurate as it would later become. Also, one would not necessarily perform a chamber arrangement at the same tempos as the orchestral original—the former’s lighter textures might make faster tempos possible, and even advisable.

Of course these arrangements do not take the place of the orchestral originals, nor were they meant to. In the era before recorded music, Hummel’s arrangements gave talented amateurs a means of access to Mozart’s symphonies when an orchestra might not have been available. There are more of them than the three recorded here, so perhaps this is the first volume in a series. I am not aware of any comprehensive collection of Hummel’s Mozart arrangements, so such a series would be welcome, particularly when the performances are as engaging as these. Like the arrangements themselves, these performances (which use new editions by Grodd) are faithful to Mozart’s originals, but also sensitive to the cultural circumstances under which Hummel prepared them. Thus (for example), the G-Minor Symphony is not the profoundly dark and disquieting work that it can be, when it is performed by an orchestra, but its intimate dimensions help the work to get under the listener’s skin in a perhaps more subtle way. This is Mozart in a more social, more polite guise, but it is no less enjoyable. Rather than acquiring yet another recording of these works in their original versions, listeners who love this music might enjoy hearing them as they are performed here. In fact, I feel quite certain that they will. Recommended.

FANFARE: Raymond Tuttle

Product Description:

  • Release Date: February 25, 2014

  • UPC: 747313284177

  • Catalog Number: 8572841

  • Label: Naxos

  • Number of Discs: 1

  • Composer: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

  • Performer: Friedemann Eichhorn, Martin Rummel, Roland Kruger, Uwe Grodd