This study investigates the importance of Hummel as a transitional composer, pedagogue and pianist between the Classical and Romantic periods, his contribution to the development of piano technique, and his influence as a pedagogue on later generations. The bases of this study were his treatise A complete theoretical and practical course on the art of piano playing (Ausführliche theoretisch-practische Anweisung zum Pianoforte-Spiele) of 1828, his Préludes op. 67 of 1814/1815 and his 24 Grandes Études op. 125 of 1833. Hummel’s treatise is an important musicological document detailing keyboard performance practices of the 18th and early 19th century. He lived at a time when the present day piano was still evolving. The new instruments with their resulting new possibilities found expression in his 24 Grandes Études op. 125.
Important sources consulted were the following:
The piano concertos of Johann Nepomuk Hummel by F.H. Mitchell (1957)
The music of J.N. Hummel: its derivations and development by R. Davis (1965)
Romantic Music: A history of musical style in the 19th century by L. Plantinga (1984) The Kristeva Reader edited by Toril Moi (1986)
How did they play? How did they teach? by S. Soderlund (2006); and
Johann Nepomuk Hummel: a musician’s life and world by Mark Kroll (2007).
Although Hummel was deeply rooted in the Classical style, his compositions displaying the hallmarks of the style galant, can be divided into two style periods. The first style period ending about 1811 shows harmonic simplicity, regularity of phrasing and elegant cantabile melody. His second period post-1811 saw the composition of works with bolder, more dissonant harmony resulting in greater chromaticism. After 1814 his piano compositions demand greater variety of tone colour, more expressive use of dynamics, rubato, and advanced technical facility of the performer.
According to Mitchell (1957: 75, 76) Hummel’s art and ornamentation are related to the virtuoso technique expanded by the Viennese pianistic style of the early 19th century. Hummel developed the ornamental style further, culminating ultimately in the poetry of the tone-coloured fioritura of Chopin. One aim of the study was to reveal the individual contributions Hummel made to the changes taking place between the Classical and Romantic styles. Innovative aspects include new virtuoso technical demands that would find fruition in the études of Chopin an Liszt. His influence on Chopin was undeniable as one perceives the early distinguishing characteristics of Chopin’s style in many of the compositions of Hummel. Schumann and Liszt were familiar with the music of Hummel in their formative years and there is much evidence of Hummel’s style in their compositions.
In Chapter 4 on intertextuality, Hummel’s influence on Chopin, Schumann and Liszt is examined, and in Chapter 5 his pedagogical principles as set out in his treatise are appraised. Chapter 6 is an investigation into the technical principles embodied in Hummel’s 24 Grandes Études op. 125 and their influence on the development of the Concert Étude.