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Hummel – Vienna Again and Marriage

He was to stay there for four eventful years, back in the mainstream of musical life, during which time he courted and married Elisabeth Röckel, an attractive and well–known singer and sister of Josef Röckel who had taken over the role of Florestan in the first revision of Beethoven’s opera Leonora performed in March 1806. Elisabeth was just 19 when they met in 1812 – they married the following year – and Beethoven, whom she knew well, was a serious admirer. However Beethoven was deeply involved in an emotional crisis – to set up home or not – with his "Immortal Beloved" (almost certainly Antonie Brentano according to Beethoven’s biographer, Maynard Solomon, though he considered Elisabeth’s candidacy) in 1812. Thus the rivals made different decisions, each of which had significant consequences for their future music.

Marriage to Elisabeth was a crossroads that saw a more mature and selfless Hummel emerge, but ended his life as a dedicated composer at a time he was reaching the highest levels of his art. She encouraged him to restart his career as a virtuoso pianist, which led him to compose some major works for his own performance. It would not be unrealistic that she had a significant influence on her husband, in spite of her youth.

The defeat of Napoleon in 1813 led to the commission of Beethoven’s Wellington’s Victory and Hummel was one of many famous musicians who formed the orchestra for its premiere in December 1813. Apart from Beethoven, who conducted, others included Salieri, Spohr, Meyerbeer and Moscheles. Hummel was invited to give a concert for the Congress of Vienna in 1814, and regained his formidable reputation as a pianist, particularly as Beethoven’s performing career was over. His first son Eduard – who would also have a career as a pianist – was born in the same year, his second son Carl – who became an excellent painter – didn’t arrive for a further eight years.

Hummel and his wife next set off on a concert tour that included Trieste, Pressburg and Prague. In January 1816 he returned to Vienna to premiere his Septet, Op.74. While in Prague Hummel gave a piano recital attended by fellow composer and virtuoso pianist Carl Maria von Weber, on whom he made a huge impression. Further concerts helped reinforce his reputation as an exceptional performing artist and convince him that concert tours should be an important part of his future activities.

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