Johann Nepomuk Hummel
String Trio No.1 in E Flat Major
Johann Nepomuk Hummel (1778-1837) 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. From early on, Hummel was recognized as a prodigy and not just on the piano. Brought to Vienna from his native Pressburg (today Bratislava) at the age of 4, Hummel auditioned to study with Mozart. While Mozart accepted the occasional day student for the odd hour or half hour lesson, he refused to take on full-time students because he was too busy. In Hummel's case, immediately recognizing the extraordinary talent, Mozart not only made an exception, but insisted that Hummel live with him so that he could supervise every aspect of the his musical education. In fact, Hummel was the only full-time student Mozart ever had.
Hummel was widely regarded as Europe's leading pianist for more than two decades and most of the next generation's leading pianists at one point or another studied with him. His compositions were widely played during his lifetime and throughout the 19th century. Stylistically, Hummel's music generally represents the end of the Viennese Classical Era and the bridge period between it and Romanticism. His two string trios are perfect examples of Hummel as a bridge composer between the two eras.
The String Trio in E flat Major begins with a formal short introduction, a call to attention, to the opening Allegro con brio. The main theme is classical and its treatment is reminiscent of Mozart. In the lovely second movement, Adagio cantabile, the music clearly straddles the two periods. The development with the two high voices over the cello pizzicato is particularly striking. The third movement is a Haydnesque Menuetto, while the lively finale, Allegro, is a classical era rondo.
With its lovely melodies and fine part writing, string trio players will certainly want to add this work to their collections.