J.N. Hummel

Adagio, Variations,and Rondo on the English Song
"The Pretty Polly", Op.75 (ca.1817)

  Hummel's status as a pianist, composer, and improvisor gives his variations special musical and historical interest. Spanning virtually his entire career, they also provide insights into his personal and pianistic development. These works are a veritable catalogue of his pianistic style, in which can be seen the inexorable growth of instrumental virtuosity. Sheer virtuosity was never Hummel's aim, however. Many of these works are very complex, chromatic, and contrapuntal. The most elaborate is probably Op.75, which, with its introduction and rondo, may be a reasonable approximation of one of Hummel's celebrated improvisations. Unlike Beethoven, Hummel always kept in mind the popular nature of the genre, and never allowed himself to lapse into extremely personal modes of expression that would alienate the domestic pianist. He knew this market well: many of the dedicatees of these works were probably his students.

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