The Hummel Project Objectives

The Hummel Project is an initiative, targeting charitable status, to increase global awareness of the music of Johann Nepomuk Hummel. Led by the Orpheus & Bacchus Music Festival Director, Ian Christians, and with the active involvement of the Hummel Gesellschaft Weimar and J.N.Hummel Chamber Days, Bratislava, plus other Hummel enthusiasts, it aims to take an analytic approach to the problems of awareness and performance and to use modern media technology to reach music lovers internationally.

Why the Hummel Project? For complex reasons, including fashion and the past focus on contemporary composers, the music of Hummel had all but vanished from the scene by the 20th century. Yet in Vienna in the early 19th century he was as famous as Beethoven as a virtuoso pianist, and as popular as a composer. And his pedigree was fabulous. He was taught by – and lived with – Mozart between 8 and 10 years old, later by Salieri, Albrechtsburger and Haydn. He succeeded Haydn at Esterhazá, and composed in all genres - bar the symphony - with great success. He significantly influenced Schubert, Liszt and particularly Chopin. After his death in 1837 his reputation, particularly in the face of the romantic movement and the theatrical virtuoso displays of Paganini and Liszt, declined.

In 1958 a student discovered the score of Hummel’s Trumpet Concerto of 1803 in the British Museum and within 20 years it had become one of the best known trumpet concertos. In 1987 the release of a recording of Hummel’s best two piano concertos –chosen by the young Stephen Hough for his first recording instead of proposed John Field Concertos - created a considerable impact. Since then the list of Hummel’s music that can be heard has grown steadily, thanks to the initiative of the specialist classical recording labels such as Chandos, Hyperion and Naxos. The Masses recently created another major shock at their quality. A ballet suite, Sappho, shows Hummel as a great melodist and orchestrator, and a release is imminent of one of his operas, Mathilde von Guise. In 50 years Hummel has gone from being the composer of a trumpet concerto to that of a very wide range of first-rate classical music.

Team Leader Ian Christians’ perspective is: "When I first heard the A minor and B minor concertos, I was bowled over – the music is clearly composed by a master. Furthermore, owning a record shop at the time, I discovered that I was not alone. Music-lovers who heard the music felt the same. Please don’t take me for a Hummel obsessive – my first loves are Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert. But I find it absolutely extraordinary that the vast majority of music-lovers – and musicians – do not have the pleasure of knowing Hummel’s music. It only needs to be heard and then the quality speaks for itself. Hence the Hummel Project!"

At the heart of the Project will be a multi-lingual website which will be informational/ educational/ concert based. Key elements will be:

Other initiatives are:

All artists who perform at the Orpheus & Bacchus Festival are encouraged to include a Hummel work – as a result the Wihan and Chilingirian Quartets are playing Hummel’s quartets for the first time. It is the intention to present influential conductors such as Sir Simon Rattle with full scores of Hummel’s key orchestral works, and to work with soloists who have the concertos in their repertoire to bring about performances.

Financial sponsors will be sought from among individuals and corporations and small contributions via internet subscribers and Friends of Hummel. Sponsors will be able to be identified with the publication of specific works.

The Hummel Project Team has been initiated, with Stephen Hough, Howard Shelley, biographer Mark Kroll and Film/TV Director Humphrey Burton amongst its members.

Specific Targets

  1. To have an effective information website in English, German, French, and Japanese operational by end 2010
  2. To have performances of a concerto and Sappho ballet music performed by the leading orchestras of Europe and North America by end 2013
  3. To have two famous pianists, who have never previously played Hummel, perform his music by end 2011

The Project also aims to be a case study to assist others who may wish to increase awareness of other neglected composers.

Ian Christians 26 November, 2009