Red Cedar Chamber Music

Johann Nepomuk Hummel: Chamber Music at Schönbrunn

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The Chamber Music at Schönbrunn title of this disc is technically accurate, but the chamber music heard here is hardly typical of Hummel's chamber output, some of which rivals Beethoven in its scope. The music here is altogether on the light side. Three of the four works involved are potpourris, and while the players may have experienced the same delight Leonard Bernstein found in one of these works ("it's a mad piece, but such fun!" he is quoted as saying in the booklet), they hold less appeal for the listener. They are not simply works of a conventional framework that quote tunes of the day within that framework, but rather true medleys of tunes that careen from one to another heedless of changes in meter or tempo. The tunes are a real grab bag; Mozart is there, and so is Peter Josef von Lindpaintner. The booklet does not list them all (if indeed scholars have identified them), but it does sketch some key junctures. Aside from a few intriguing passages (such as one in the Grande Serenade en Potpourri, Op. 66/2, in which all the players except the pianist leave the stage for a scary operatic storm interlude), it's not clear that Hummel's contributions were much more than workaday in the potpourris, and the Trio, Op. 78, is also a very slight work. The most attractive feature of the disc is the set of authentic instruments used, especially the rather mournfully warm wooden flute of Jan Boland; the Iowa ensemble Red Cedar Chamber Music plays accurately and enthusiastically throughout. But this disc will be of the most interest to scholars with the knowledge to pick out the tunes Hummel quotes as they go by.

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