Moscheles & Hummel: Cello Sonatas

Moscheles & Hummel: Cello Sonatas

Jiří Bárta (cello), Hamish Milne (piano)


Johann Nepomuk Hummel and Ignaz Moscheles were frequently bracketed together in their day as the two piano virtuosos by whom—before the brilliant star of Liszt rose on the horizon—other performers might be measured.

Moscheles wrote his rich and virtuosic cello sonata in 1850/1, treating the piano and cello as equals. In movement three, subtitled ‘in Bohemian manner’, he reflects on his childhood in Prague with a rhythmic, folk-like melody that follows the form of a dumka. The sonata is dedicated to his friend and musical admirer Robert Schumann, who wrote thanking Moscheles saying: ‘You have given me joy and done me honour with the dedication of your sonata. More than thirty years ago in Carlsbad, when I was quite unknown to you, I refused to part with a concert ticket for a long time because you had touched it, so I kept it as if it were a relic. Little did I dream that I would be honoured in this way by so famous a master. Please accept my deepest gratitude!’

Moscheles was also something of a pioneer and was keen to awaken an interest in composers such as Bach, Handel and Scarlatti who he felt were being unduly neglected. In 1864 he published a set of so-called ‘Melodisch-contrapunktische Studien’, making use of ten preludes from Bach’s Well-tempered Clavier and adding a cello obbligato.

Hummel’s graceful Cello Sonata in A major is romantic, spacious and immediately attractive. It glides along with the cello expressively ‘singing’ over a rippling piano accompaniment; and the contrasting extrovert final pages of the third movement provide an exuberant ending.

This is Jirí Bárta’s first recording on Hyperion.

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