Notes and Editorial Reviews
In Johann Nepomuk Hummel's day everyone accepted the composer as a genius on the level of Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, and Chopin. Posterity has determined otherwise, and that's a shame. Hummel may not have possessed raving originality, but his piano sonatas offer much in the way of melodic charm, scintillating virtuosity, and occasional harmonic daring. Moreover, Hummel's fluent command of the piano's geography allowed him to stage-manage keyboard effects for maximum impact without upsetting the formal parameters of the classical apple cart. Veteran pianist Constance Keene returns to the studio for the first in a three-CD series devoted to Hummel's complete piano sonatas. Much of Keene's recent career has focused on teaching and
other non-performing duties. Happily, her ample tone and digital prowess are securely intact. Every so often, though, fast right-hand passagework tends to rush and lose rhythmic definition when the going gets hairy. I suspect this is less a matter of design than habit. By contrast, Howard Shelley brings more profile and textural limpidity to his version of the E-flat sonata. He also takes the first movement repeat, whereas Keene observes none of the expositional double bars. John Bell Young's flowery but informative booklet notes are as delightful to digest as Newport Classic's robust sonics. Bring on the remaining volumes.
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