HUMMEL: Piano Concerto in F, Op. post. 1.  Theme and Variations in F, Op. 97.  Piano Concerto in A, S4/W24.
London Mozart Players/Howard Shelley, pianist-conductor

CHANDOS 9886 (F) (DDD) TT:  67:42

In 1987 Chandos was hailed for their issue of two piano concertos (A minor, Op. 85 and B Minor, Op. 89) by Johann Nepomuk Hummel (1778-1837), played by Stephen Hough with the English Chamber Orchestra conducted by Byrden Thomson (Chandos 8507). This was the first major label recording of any of Hummel's unjustly neglected piano concertos offering brilliant performances and fine recorded sound. Now Chandos has another winner—what apparently are premiere recordings of repertory listed above—at least I don't see them listed in the latest Schwann/Opus.  The first, Op. post. 1, one would expect to be an early work but it isn't— it was his last concerto, published after his death.  In the first movement, after a lengthy orchestral introduction, the piano makes its dramatic entrance. The rather short (6:30) slow center movement includes an extended cadenza and the concerto ends with a brilliant Allegro con brio.  It's difficult to understand why this concerto wasn't well received at its premiere in London in 1833.

Theme and Variations in F, Op. 97, scored for piano with small orchestra, features a Mozartean tune set in seven imaginative variations with a cadenza for the soloist in the last.  The Concerto in A Major which ends the CD has a confused history.  It seems the score was reworked several times and the middle movement heard here is taken from a manuscript discovered in Florence in the last century which seems a better match for the two outer movements. 

Neither of these concertos is as brilliant for the soloist as the A minor and B minor concertos on the earlier Chandos release, but they are filled with delectable ideas and are welcome additions to the CD catalog.  Howard Shelly handle the double role of pianist/conductor admirably, with state-of-the-art sonics from Chandos.   Recommended!

R.E.B. (May 2001)