Delme String Quartet

Hummel: Three String Quartets, Op. 30

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It is certainly unfair to judge Johann Nepomuk Hummel's modest String Quartets, Op. 30, against Beethoven's incalculably greater oeuvre, but any consideration of these works inevitably leads to comparisons. Hummel's conservative and inoffensive quartets go no further than the models established by Haydn and Mozart, and while Beethoven's developments of the form in the Op. 18 quartets were probably known to Hummel, he could not have been expected to absorb or use them, indeed, the magnitude of Beethoven's accomplishments eluded most of his contemporaries for decades. So it is best to view Hummel's quartets in the proper context, as genial chamber works by a composer who was only dabbling in the medium. That said, the three quartets are charming in their repartee and vigorously developed, and listeners may enjoy them as pleasant Classical diversions without requiring them to be essential masterpieces. The Delmé Quartet surely does not, though it delivers Hummel's works with a fine balance of humor and pathos, and accords the music enough elegance and depth of feeling to make them worth at least one hearing.

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