Hummel: String Quartets

Hummel: String Quartets

Delmé Quartet


Johann Nepomuk Hummel was born in Pressburg (now Bratislava in western Czechoslovakia) on 14 November 1778, the son of a musician. He was a remarkable child prodigy, reading music at four, playing the violin at five and the keyboard at six. He went on to study with Mozart and at the age of ten began to tour Europe as a keyboard virtuoso in the company of his father. Comparisons with Mozart, who trod a similar path two decades earlier, were inevitable. The English amateur musician William Gardiner wrote that the youthful Hummel was ‘the most surprising performer’ that had ever visited England ‘except the young Mozart’. As an adult, however, Hummel was rather more successful than Mozart in obtaining well-paid and satisfying posts. In 1804 he succeeded Haydn as director of music in the Esterházy household; the appointment, perhaps inevitably, was not altogether successful, and he was dismissed in 1811. After a few years as a freelance composer and performer in Vienna, Hummel became Kapellmeister at the Stuttgart court in 1816, moving to Weimar in the winter of 1818/19. Here he was able to combine financial security with a good deal of freedom: he conducted the court opera, had ample time to compose and teach privately, and made a number of lucrative foreign tours. By the early 1830s his style of composing and playing began to seem old-fashioned, and his popularity waned. Nevertheless, he was still a rich and famous man when he died at Weimar on 17 October 1837.

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