Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

Archive for Johann Hummel

Dr. Bob Prescribes Selected Piano Music of Johann Nepomuk Hummel

Johann Nepomuk Hummel (1778-1837) was, in his lifetime, considered Beethoven’s equal as a pianist and, if not his equal as a compositional innovator, then a rather more listenable alternative.  The former head music critic for The New York Times, Harold Schonberg, put it this way: “He [Hummel] was a highly regarded composer in his day – overrated then, underrated now.” A snooty but not inaccurate appraisal.  And it is true that as a composer – particularly as a composer of piano music – Hummel remains far underrated today.  When his music is discussed, on those fairly rare occasions when it is discussed at all, it is assigned to that strange, in-betweeny netherworld as being “transitional.” In the case of Hummel’s music, it is blithely classified as being “proto-Romantic” or “post-Classical,” as if it were a lesser hybrid (half-breed?) between two otherwise “pure” musical styles, a cross between old music and new music; between the Classical era ideal of the composer as craftsperson and the Romantic era vision of artist-as-hero.  Well, pooh on all of that, and double-pooh on these useless categories so casually bandied about by program annotators and presumed music historians.   As both a pianist and composer, Hummel […]

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Music History Monday: Name the Composer/Pianist

Name the Composer/Pianist: he was a student of Wolfgang Mozart, Antonio Salieri, Muzio Clementi, and Joseph Haydn; friend to Franz Schubert and a friend (and rival!) of Ludwig van Beethoven; and teacher of – among many others – Carl Czerny, Ferdinand Hiller, Sigismond Thalberg, and Felix Mendelssohn; in his lifetime considered one of the greats and in ours almost entirely forgotten? With a title like that, the subject of this post better be good. And good he was! We mark the death on October 17, 1837 – 185 years ago today – of the composer and pianist Johann Nepomuk Hummel in the Thuringian city Weimar.  Born in Pressburg (today Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia) on November 14, 1778, Hummel was 59 years old at the time of his death. A Preliminary: What’s in a Name? Listen, the last thing in the world I want to be accused of (okay, maybe not the last thing . . .) is name shaming: making fun of someone’s name.  But let’s be serious: what sort of middle name is “Nepomuk”?  And it’s not just Hummel: “Nepomuk”, a name that most certainly does not ring beatific for native English speakers, was a fairly common middle […]

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