Johann Nepomuk Hummel, classical music composer

Johann Nepomuk Hummel


A close contemporary of Ludwig van Beethoven, Johann Nepomuk Hummel was born in Pressburg, Hungary (at the time a part of the Habsburg Monarchy) on November 14th, 1778. His father, Josef Hummel, was also a musician and director of the Imperial School of Military Music in Vienna. At the age of eight, Hummel was offered music lessons by Mozart who was impressed with the boy's talents on the piano. For two years, Hummel studied with Mozart free of charge and gave his first concert appearance at the age of nine. After this period of study, Hummel's father took him on a tour of Europe. In London, where they stayed for four years, Hummel met both Muzio Clementi and Joseph Haydn. From Clementi he received further instruction in the piano and Haydn composed a sonata for him. The tour was later to include Spain and France but the outbreak of the French Revolution and the subsequent Reign of Terror prompted Hummel and his father to return early to Vienna.

Hummel's return to Vienna roughly coincided with Beethoven's arrival and both became students of J. G. Albrechtsberger and Joseph Haydn. The two young musicians formed a lasting friendship, though as with all those who were close to Beethoven, the relationship certainly had its highs and lows. Nevertheless, Hummel later performed at Beethoven's memorial concert following the great composer's death.

In 1804, Hummel succeeded Haydn as Kapellmeister at Prince Esterházy's estate in Eisenstadt only to be dismissed from the post seven years later for neglecting his duties. Following tours of Russia and Europe, he secured the post of Kapellmeister at Stuttgart and Weimer. Here he formed close friendships with both Goethe and Schiller and transformed Weimer into a flourishing center of music. He was one of the first to set up a pension fund for retired musicians by giving benefit concerts when their retirement funds ran low and lobbied for musical copyrights.

In 1828, he published his treatise, A Complete Theoretical and Practical Course of Instruction on the Art of Playing Piano Forte, which sold thousands of copies within its first few days of being available to the public. The work became influential on piano technique for the remainder of the century. As a composer, of which much of his output consisted of piano works, he was influential on both Frédéric Chopin and Robert Schumann.

By his later years, Hummel had secured fame as one of the great piano virtuosi of his day. However, the composers and musicians of the burgeoning Romantic Movement began to view his music as old-fashioned. Consequently, he composed less toward the end of his life. He died in Weimer on October 17th, 1837. For about the next century, his music remained largely in obscurity. Even with the revival of many lesser known classical masters during the early 20th century, Hummel was looked over. However, in recent decades his music has become more readily available and garnered a more favorable position in the classical repertoire.

Composer Title Date Action
Johann Nepomuk Hummel Introduction, Theme, and Variations in F minor, Op. 102 03/25/2009 Play Add to playlist
Johann Nepomuk Hummel Variations on a Theme from Gluck's Armide, Op. 57 02/11/2010 Play Add to playlist
Johann Nepomuk Hummel Piano Sonata No. 81 Movement 3 06/21/2010 Play Add to playlist