Brilliant - Hummel: Complete Piano Sonatas
The complete sets issued by the budget Dutch label Brilliant often don't satisfy, delivering mere bulk in place of intelligent, illuminating programming. An exception is this set of Hummel piano sonatas by Italian fortepianist Costantino Mastroprimiano, even if it's not the complete set that's promised (there are at least three more works that were unpublished during the composer's lifetime but generally accepted as genuine). One might also complain that there was room on the CDs to do the sonatas in order, and that sequencing might have fit better with Mastroprimiano's aims. All this said, hearing a lot of Hummel at once illuminates why he was well-regarded as a composer in his time, even by the notoriously praise-stingy Beethoven. Better still, other major Hummel releases have been mostly on a modern grand, but Mastroprimiano uses a pair of fortepianos, a 1790s Walter instrument, and an 1830s Erard. The cumulative effect is to give the listener an idea of the range of ways in which Hummel influenced the incipient Romantic movement. He influenced Schumann, Mendelssohn, Chopin, and Schubert in various ways, and here you get the serious slow movements, the expanded sparkling Mozartianism, the exploration of figuration, and the vastness of musical space, respectively. The strongest work is the truly proto-Romantic Piano Sonata No. 5 in D major, Op. 106, and you can sample that on the third CD. But each of the sonatas has something to contribute to the overall picture. Mastroprimiano is a talented pianist in this repertory, giving each sonata its particular sound and shade, and the set is heartily recommended to lovers of the pre-Romantic period.