Johann Nepomuk Hummel
String Quartet No.1 in C Major, Op.30 No.1
Some scholars have suggested that in 1803 Hummel wrote his three Op.30 String Quartets as a response to Beethoven's Op.18 Quartets of 1801. This suggestion stems from the fact that in Vienna Hummel was Beethoven's only serious rival both as a pianist and as a composer. Beethoven had studied with Haydn but claimed he had learned nothing from him. Certainly, his Op.18 Quartets owe little or no debt to Haydn who for his part said he could not understand and did not find them pleasing. Hummel, who had studied with Mozart, on the other hand, was not trying to break away from the Vienna Classical style pioneered by Haydn and Mozart but to build on it. Therefore, it seems unlikely that Hummel intended his Op.30 Quartets as some kind of an answer to what Beethoven had done.
Nonetheless, Op.30 No.1 is in its own way quite remarkable. The first movement begins with a slow Adagio e mesto introduction. It is pensive and reflective rather than sad. The main part of the movement, Allegro non troppo, is a leisurely and genial affair. The second movement, Menuetto, allegro assai, with downward plunging and then upward rising chromatic passages creates a memorable effect. In the beautiful, long-lined melodies of the third movement, Adagio cantabile, we can hear Mozart's voice. A playful, Haydnesque finale, Allegro vivace, finishes off this fine work.
Johann Nepomuk Hummel (1778-1837) from early on, Hummel was recognized as a prodigy. He was not only considered one of the most important composers of his time but was also widely regarded as the greatest piano virtuoso of his era. We owe the transmission of Mozart's pianistic style and technique to him. He was perhaps the most important piano teacher of the first decades of the 19th century and virtually every first rate pianist who could afford his fees (Liszt couldn't) studied with him. His compositions, at the time, were held to be the equal of Beethoven.
Our new edition is based on and follows the Riedl Edition of Vienna. Here is a worthy quartet that would make an excellent program choice where an alternative to Mozart or early Beethoven is sought. And it is sure to bring pleasure to amateurs.