Johann Nepomuk Hummel

Johann Nepomuk Hummel (14 November 1778 – 17 October 1837) was an Austrian composer and virtuoso pianist. His music reflects the transition from the Classical to the Romantic musical era.

Johann Nepomuk Hummel
JNHummel 2
Portrait by Joseph Karl Stieler, 1820
Born14 November 1778
Died17 October 1837 (aged 58)
OccupationComposer and pianist
List of compositions
Spouse(s)Elisabeth Röckel (m. 1813)
ChildrenEduard, Carl


Johann Nepomuk Hummel's Birth House
Hummel's birthplace in Klobucnicka Street, Bratislava

Hummel was born in Pressburg, Kingdom of Hungary, then a part of the Austrian Habsburg Monarchy (now Bratislava in Slovakia). He was named after St John of Nepomuk, and – unusually for that period – an only child. His father, Johannes Hummel,[1] was the director of the Imperial School of Military Music in Vienna, his mother, Margarethe Sommer Hummel, was the widow of the wigmaker Josef Ludwig. The couple married just four months beforehand.[2]

Like Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Hummel was a child prodigy. At the age of eight, he was offered music lessons by Mozart, who was impressed with his ability. Hummel was taught and housed by Mozart for two years free of charge and made his first concert appearance at the age of nine at one of Mozart's concerts.

Hummel's father then took him on a European tour, arriving in London where he received instruction from Muzio Clementi and where he stayed for four years before returning to Vienna. In 1791 Joseph Haydn, who was in London at the same time as young Hummel, composed a sonata in A-flat major for Hummel, who gave its first performance in the Hanover Square Rooms in Haydn's presence. When Hummel finished, Haydn reportedly thanked the young man and gave him a guinea.

The outbreak of the French Revolution and the following Reign of Terror caused Hummel to cancel a planned tour through Spain and France. Instead, he returned to Vienna, giving concerts along his route. Upon his return to Vienna he was taught by Johann Georg Albrechtsberger, Joseph Haydn, and Antonio Salieri.

At about this time, young Ludwig van Beethoven arrived in Vienna and also took lessons from Haydn and Albrechtsberger, thus becoming a fellow student and a friend. Beethoven's arrival was said to have nearly destroyed Hummel's self-confidence, though he recovered without much harm. The two men's friendship was marked by ups and downs, but developed into reconciliation and mutual respect. Hummel visited Beethoven in Vienna on several occasions with his wife Elisabeth and pupil Ferdinand Hiller. At Beethoven's wish, Hummel improvised at the great man's memorial concert. It was at this event that he made friends with Franz Schubert, who dedicated his last three piano sonatas to Hummel. However, since both composers had died by the time of the sonatas' first publication, the publishers changed the dedication to Robert Schumann, who was still active at the time.

Hummel, c. 1814, Goethe-Museum, Düsseldorf

In 1804, Hummel became Konzertmeister to Prince Esterházy's establishment at Eisenstadt. Although he had taken over many of the duties of Kapellmeister because Haydn's health did not permit him to perform them himself, he continued to be known simply as the Concertmeister out of respect to Haydn, receiving the title of Kapellmeister, or music director, to the Eisenstadt court only after the older composer died in May 1809. He remained in the service of Prince Esterházy for seven years altogether before being dismissed in May 1811 for neglecting his duties.[3] He then returned to Vienna where, after spending two years composing, he married the opera singer Elisabeth Röckel in 1813. The following year, at her request, was spent touring Russia and the rest of Europe. The couple had two sons.[4] The younger, Carl (1821–1907), became a well-known landscape painter. The older, Eduard, worked as pianist, conductor and composer; he moved to the US and died in Troy, New York.

Hummel later held the positions of Kapellmeister in Stuttgart from 1816 to 1819 and in Weimar from 1819 to 1837, where he formed a close friendship with Goethe, learning among other things to appreciate the poetry of Schiller, who had died in 1805. During Hummel's stay in Weimar he made the city into a European musical capital, inviting the best musicians of the day to visit and make music there. He brought one of the first musicians' pension schemes into existence, giving benefit concert tours when the retirement fund ran low. Hummel was one of the first to agitate for musical copyright to combat intellectual piracy.

In 1825, the Parisian music-publishing firm of Aristide Farrenc announced that it had acquired the French publishing rights for all future works by Hummel. In 1830, Hummel gave three concerts in Paris; at one of them, a rondo by Hummel was performed by Aristide Farrenc's wife, the composer Louise Farrenc, who also "sought Hummel's comments on her keyboard technique."[5]

In 1832, at the age of 54 and in failing health, Hummel began to devote less energy to his duties as music director at Weimar. In addition, after Goethe's death in March 1832 he had less contact with local theatrical circles and as a result found himself in partial retirement from 1832 until his death in 1837.[4]


Bust of Hummel near the Deutsches Nationaltheater in Weimar

While in Germany, Hummel published A Complete Theoretical and Practical Course of Instruction on the Art of Playing the Piano Forte (1828), which sold thousands of copies within days of its publication and brought about a new style of fingering and of playing ornaments. Later 19th century pianistic technique was influenced by Hummel, through his instruction of Carl Czerny who later taught Franz Liszt. Czerny had transferred to Hummel after studying three years with Beethoven.

Hummel's influence can also be seen in the early works of Frédéric Chopin and Robert Schumann, and the shadow of Hummel's Piano Concerto in B minor as well as his Piano Concerto in A minor can be particularly perceived in Chopin's concertos. This is unsurprising, considering that Chopin must have heard Hummel on one of the latter's concert tours to Poland and Russia, and that Chopin kept Hummel's piano concertos in his active repertoire. Harold C. Schonberg, in The Great Pianists, writes "...the openings of the Hummel A minor and Chopin E minor concertos are too close to be coincidental".[6] In relation to Chopin's Preludes, Op. 28, Schonberg says: "It also is hard to escape the notion that Chopin was very familiar with Hummel's now-forgotten Op. 67,[7] composed in 1815 – a set of twenty-four preludes in all major and minor keys, starting with C major".

Robert Schumann also practiced Hummel (especially the Sonata in F-sharp minor, Op. 81), and considered becoming his pupil. Liszt's father Adam refused to pay the high tuition fee Hummel was used to charging (thus Liszt ended up studying with Czerny). Czerny, Friedrich Silcher, Ferdinand Hiller, Sigismond Thalberg, and Adolf von Henselt were among Hummel's most prominent students. He also briefly gave some lessons to Felix Mendelssohn.[8]


Johann Nepomuk Hummel - Il viaggiator ridicolo. (BL Add MS 32197 f. 1v)
A surviving manuscript of Hummel's work, probably in his own hand

Hummel's music took a different direction from that of Beethoven. Looking forward, Hummel stepped into modernity through pieces like his Sonata in F-sharp minor, Op. 81, and his Fantasy, Op. 18, for piano. These pieces are examples where Hummel may be seen to both challenge the classical harmonic structures and stretch the sonata form.

His main oeuvre is for the piano, on which instrument he was one of the great virtuosi of his day. He wrote eight piano concertos, a double concerto for violin and piano, ten piano sonatas (of which four are without opus numbers, and one is still unpublished), eight piano trios, a piano quartet, a piano quintet, a wind octet, a cello sonata, two piano septets, a mandolin concerto, a mandolin sonata, a Trumpet Concerto in E major written for the keyed trumpet (usually heard in the more convenient E-flat major), a "Grand Bassoon Concerto" in F, a quartet for clarinet, violin, viola, and cello, four hand piano music, 22 operas and Singspiels, masses, and much more, including a variation on a theme supplied by Anton Diabelli for part 2 of Vaterländischer Künstlerverein.

Although thought of in terms of the piano in modern times, Hummel was seriously and constantly interested in the guitar, and he was talented with the instrument. He was prolific in his writing, and his compositions for it begin with opus 7 and finish with opus 93. Other guitar works include Opp. 43, 53, 62, 63, 66, 71 and 91, which are written for a mixture of instruments.[9]

Hummel's output is marked by the conspicuous lack of a symphony. Of his eight piano concertos the first two are early Mozartesque compositions (S. 4/WoO 24 and S. 5) and the later six were numbered and published with opus numbers (Opp. 36, 85, 89, 110, 113, and posth.)

A full list of Hummel's works is available online.[10]

Last years and legacy

Hummel-Grab Weimar
Hummel's grave in the Historical Cemetery, Weimar

At the end of his life, Hummel saw the rise of a new school of young composers and virtuosi, and found his own music slowly going out of fashion. His disciplined and clean Clementi-style technique, and his balanced classicism, opposed him to the rising school of tempestuous bravura displayed by the likes of Liszt. Composing less and less, but still highly respected and admired, Hummel died peacefully in Weimar in 1837. A freemason (like Mozart), Hummel bequeathed a considerable portion of his famous garden behind his Weimar residence to his masonic lodge. His grave is in the Historical Cemetery, Weimar.

Although Hummel died famous, with a lasting posthumous reputation apparently secure, he and his music were quickly forgotten at the onrush of the Romantic period, perhaps because his classical ideas were seen as old-fashioned. Later, during the classical revival of the early 20th century, Hummel was passed over. Like Haydn (for whom a revival had to wait until the second half of the 20th century), Hummel was overshadowed by Mozart and especially Beethoven, his contemporary. Due to a rising number of available recordings and an increasing number of live concerts across the world, his music is now becoming reestablished in the classical repertoire.

Notable students include Alexander Müller.



  1. ^ Hust, Christoph. 2003. "Hummel, Johann Nepomuk." In: Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart. 2nd ed. Ludwig Finscher (ed.). Kassel: Bärenreiter, pp. 503–511.
  2. ^ "The Hummel Project – Hummel's Life – His Early Life and Mozart".
  3. ^ Cummins, Robert. Piano Sonata No. 3 in F minor, Op. 20 at AllMusic. Retrieved 27 September 2012.
  4. ^ a b Cummins, Robert. Johann Nepomuk Hummel at AllMusic. Retrieved 27 September 2012.
  5. ^ Bea Friedland, Louise Farrenc, 1804–1875: Composer, Performer, Scholar, 1980, Ann Arbor, UMI Press, pp. 15–16, ISN=0-8357-1111-0
  6. ^ Harold C. Schonberg, The Great Pianists, p. 110
  7. ^ Scans from Universal Edition c. 1900, and symbolic data for Op. 67 preludes
  8. ^ Joel Sachs, "Hummel, Johann Nepomuk", §6 'Performance and teaching', Oxford Music Online (subscription only), accessed 29 May 2011
  9. ^ Philip J. Bone, The Guitar and Mandolin, biographies of celebrated players and composers for these instruments, London: Schott and Co., 1914.
  10. ^ Hummel's All Works Catalog (PDF), archived from the original (PDF) on 30 May 2008, retrieved 16 October 2011, compiled and formatted by Mr. Mikio Tao of Japan. His sources were The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, as well as Dieter Zimmerschied's Thematisches Verzeichnis der Werke von Johann Nepomuk Hummel


  • Schonberg, Harold C. (1963). "VII: From Ireland to Bohemia". The Great Pianists: From Mozart to the Present. New York: Simon & Schuster.
  • Schonberg, Harold C. (1987). The Great Pianists (Rev. & updated ed.). New York City: Simon and Schuster. ISBN 0-671-64200-6.

Further reading

  • Johann Nepomuk Hummel: Der Mensch und Künstler. Karl Benyovszky, Breslau: Eos-Verlag 1934.
  • Zwischen Klassik und Klassizismus. Johann Nepomuk Hummel in Wien und Weimar. Anselm Gerhard, Laurenz Lütteken (editors), Kassel: Bärenreiter 2003.
  • Kroll, Mark (2007). Johann Nepomuk Hummel: A musician's Life and World. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press. ISBN 0-8108-5920-3.
  • Lorenz, Michael: "Maria Eva Hummel. A Postscript", Vienna 2013
  • Kapellmeister Hummel in England and France. Joel Sachs, Detroit: Information Coordinators 1977.
  • Johann Nepomuk Hummel und Weimar. Komponist, Klaviervirtuose, Kapellmeister 1778–1837. Kurt Thomas, Weimar: Rat der Stadt 1987
  • Die Kammermusik Johann Nepomuk Hummels. Dieter Zimmerschied, Mainz: 1966.
  • Thematisches Verzeichnis der Werke von Johann Nepomuk Hummel. Dieter Zimmerschied, Hofheim am Taunus: Hofmeister 1971.

External links

Beethoven and his contemporaries

During the course of his lifetime (1770–1827), Ludwig van Beethoven enjoyed relationships with many of his musical contemporaries. Beethoven was famously difficult to get along with, and the history of his relationships with contemporaries is littered with arguments, misunderstandings, and reconciliations. Beethoven had well-known fallings out with his one-time teacher, Joseph Haydn, with the piano virtuoso and composer Johann Nepomuk Hummel, and the German composer Carl Maria von Weber.

Cantata for the Wedding of Emperor Napoleon and Marie-Louise of Austria

Cantate pour le Mariage de l'Empereur Napoleon avec Marie Louise d'Autriche (Cantata for the Wedding of Emperor Napoleon and Marie Louise of Austria) is a wedding cantata for orchestra, choir and soloists composed by Johann Nepomuk Hummel in 1810. The piece was performed at the wedding ceremony of Napoleon Bonaparte and Marie Louise of Austria in March, but was not published in the composer's lifetime. It received a first performance in the UK in 2016, with instrumentalists and singers from Clare College, Cambridge conducted by Toby Hession.

Domenico Puccini

Domenico Vincenzo Maria Puccini (5 April 1772 – 25 May 1815) was an Italian composer, a contemporary of Muzio Clementi and Johann Nepomuk Hummel.

Puccini was born in Lucca into a Tuscan musical family of at least five generations: his father was Antonio Puccini, his grandfather was Giacomo Puccini (senior), his son was Michele Puccini, and his grandson was the opera composer Giacomo Puccini.

His works include a piano concerto in B and several dozen piano sonatas.

Puccini died in Lucca in 1815.

Elisabeth Röckel

Elisabeth Röckel (15 March 1793, baptised "Maria Eva", Neunburg vorm Wald – 3 March 1883 in Weimar) was a German soprano opera singer and the wife of the composer Johann Nepomuk Hummel.

Fanny Stål

Fanny Stål (4 October 1821, Stockholm – 21 March 1889, Västerås) was a Swedish classical pianist.

Fanny Stål was the daughter of the language teacher Axel Samuel Stål, paternal niece of the architect Carl Stål, the musician Conrad Stål and the merchant Pehr Christian Stål.

She was a student of Jan van Boom and Wilhelm Bauck in Stockholm and, during the 1840s, of Frédéric Chopin in Paris, along Henriette Nissen-Saloman his likely only Swedish students. She became one of the most noted Swedish pianists in mid-19th century Sweden. She gave her most noted concert in Stora Börssalen in Stockholm in 1859, with compositions of Johann Nepomuk Hummel, Sigismund Thalberg and Chopin.

Friedrich Kühmstedt

Friedrich Karl Kühmstedt (20 December 1809 – 8 January 1858) was a German composer. He studied with Johann Nepomuk Hummel in Weimar. His work includes symphonies, fugues and preludes for organ.

Henry Forbes (composer)

Henry Forbes (1804–1859) was an English pianist, organist and composer.

Forbes was a pupil of George Thomas Smart, Johann Nepomuk Hummel, Ignaz Moscheles, and Henri Herz, and had greater success as executant and teacher than as composer. While organist of St Luke's Church, Chelsea, a London church, he published (1843) National Psalmody, containing some original numbers. His opera The Fairy Oak was disliked by the critics, but had a run of a week or two after its production at Drury Lane, 18 October 1845. A cantata, Ruth, was performed in 1847.

Forbes frequently associated with his brother George Forbes (1813–1883) in concerts, and was between 1827 and 1850 conductor of the Società Armonica. He died on 24 November 1859, in his fifty-sixth year.

Hofkapelle Stuttgart

Hofkapelle Stuttgart is a German orchestra based in Stuttgart which has existed since the 16th century. It was the band of the House of Württemberg. Since 2002, it is an orchestra founded by Frieder Bernius to play Baroque music in historically informed performance.

Different ensembles were named Hofkapelle in Stuttgart at different times. In 1617 it consisted of 50 "excellent singers" and was affiliated with the royal chamber music ensemble. In 1699, eleven "Kapellknaben" (chapel boys) performed. From 1736 to 1750, the chapel made singers and Kapellknaben available for opera performances, the chapel choir was transformed to the opera choir, while an orchestra took the name Hofkapelle.

In 1818, Johann Nepomuk Hummel introduced subscription concerts, promoting the development of the orchestra to a modern symphony orchestra. Today's Württemberg State Orchestra of Stuttgart's State Theatre continues the tradition of the Hofkapelle.

In 2002, conductor Frieder Bernius founded an orchestra to play Baroque music in historically informed performance and took the historic name.

List of compositions by Johann Nepomuk Hummel

This is a list of compositions by Johann Nepomuk Hummel.

Nicolai Berendt

Nicolai Berendt (July 27, 1826 – 1889) was a Danish pianist and composer.

He debuted as a pianist in November 1846 at the Royal Theater of Denmark with a piano concerto by Johann Nepomuk Hummel. In 1851–53 he studied composition and piano in Vienna and lived thereafter as the piano teacher and concert pianist in Hanover.

Piano Concerto No. 25 (Mozart)

The Piano Concerto No. 25 in C major, K. 503, was completed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart on December 4, 1786, alongside the Prague Symphony, K. 504. Although two more concertos (K. 537 and K. 595) would later follow, this work is the last of what are considered the twelve great piano concertos written in Vienna between 1784 and 1786. Chronologically the work is the 21st of Mozart's 23 original piano concertos.

K. 503 is now widely recognized as "one of Mozart's greatest masterpieces in the concerto genre." However, it had long been neglected in favor of Mozart's more "brilliant" concertos, such as K. 467. Though Mozart performed it on several occasions, it was not performed again in Vienna until after his death, and it only gained acceptance in the standard repertoire in the later part of the twentieth century. Mozart's pupil Johann Nepomuk Hummel valued it, as can be seen in the influence it had on Hummel's own Piano Concerto in C, Op. 36.

Piano Concerto No. 2 (Hummel)

Johann Nepomuk Hummel's Piano Concerto No. 2 in A minor, Op. 85 was written in 1816 and published in Vienna in 1821. Unlike his earlier piano concerti, which closely followed the model of Mozart's, the A minor concerto, like the B minor Concerto, Op. 89, is written in a proto-Romantic style that anticipates the later stylistic developments of composers such as Frédéric Chopin and Felix Mendelssohn.

Piano Concerto No. 3 (Hummel)

Johann Nepomuk Hummel's Piano Concerto No. 3 in B minor, Op. 89 was composed in Vienna in 1819 and published in Leipzig in 1821.Unlike his earlier piano concerti, which closely followed the model of Mozart's, the B minor concerto along with the slightly earlier Concerto No. 2 is written in a proto-Romantic style that anticipates the later stylistic developments of composers such as Frédéric Chopin and Felix Mendelssohn.

Piano Concerto No. 3 (Ries)

Piano Concerto No. 3 in C-sharp minor, Op. 55, by German composer Ferdinand Ries was written around 1813. It was composed in the proto-Romantic style, similar to the concertos of Johann Nepomuk Hummel, and anticipates stylistic developments of future Romantic composers.

Piano Concerto No. 6 (Ries)

The Piano Concerto No. 6 in C major, Op. 123, by Ferdinand Ries was composed around 1806. Composed in a proto-Romantic style, similar to the concertos of Johann Nepomuk Hummel, it also shows evidence of the influence of Beethoven's C minor Piano Concerto, Op. 37 which Ries had performed at his public debut in 1804.

Trumpet Concerto (Hummel)

Johann Nepomuk Hummel wrote his Concerto a Trombe Principale (Trumpet Concerto in E Major) for Viennese trumpet virtuoso and inventor of the keyed trumpet, Anton Weidinger (as had Joseph Haydn). It was written in December 1803 and performed on New Year's Day 1804 to mark Hummel's entrance into the court orchestra of Nikolaus II, Prince Esterházy as Haydn's successor. There are places, primarily in the second movement, where Weidinger is believed to have changed the music because of the execution of the instrument. It is unknown whether this was in agreement with Hummel.

Originally this piece was written in E major. The piece is often performed in E-flat major, which makes the fingering less difficult on modern E-flat and B-flat trumpets.

Duration is 17 minutes approximately.


Unterstinkenbrunn is a town in the district of Mistelbach in the Austrian state of Lower Austria.

Vaterländischer Künstlerverein

Vaterländischer Künstlerverein was a collaborative musical publication or anthology, incorporating 83 variations for piano on a theme by Anton Diabelli, written by 51 composers living in or associated with Austria. It was published in two parts in 1823 and 1824, by firms headed by Diabelli. It includes Ludwig van Beethoven's Diabelli Variations, Op. 120 (a set of 33 variations), as well as single variations from 50 other composers including Carl Czerny, Franz Schubert, Johann Nepomuk Hummel, Ignaz Moscheles, Friedrich Kalkbrenner, Franz Liszt (aged only 12 at the time of publication), and a host of lesser-known names including a son of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and others now largely forgotten.

Vaterländischer Künstlerverein has various translations, including "Patriotic Artists' Association", "Art Association of the Fatherland", "Patriotic Culture Club", "Fatherland's Society of Artists", "National Artists' Association", "Native Artist's Association" and "Native Society of Artists".


The Écossaise (in French: Scottish) is a type of contradanse in a Scottish style – a Scottish country dance at least in name – that was popular in France and Great Britain at the end of the 18th century and at the beginning of the 19th. Despite the Écossaise mimicking a Scottish country dance, it is actually French in origin. The écossaise was usually danced in 2/4 time in two lines, with men facing the women. As the dance is executed, couples progress to the head of the line. Écossaise compositions were mainly written for solo piano, so that couples could dance to it. The musical form was also adopted by some classical composers, including Franz Schubert, Ludwig van Beethoven, and Frédéric Chopin, who wrote a number of Ecossaises for the piano, which are recognized for their lively rhythm. Chopin composed Three Ecossaises, Op. 72, in this style. Schubert also wrote a number of écossaises for piano, including Ecossaise, D.158, 8 Ecossaises, D.529, and 12 Ecossaises, D.299. Beethoven composed an Ecossaise for piano (WoO 23) and for military band (WoO 22).

This music usually includes significant dynamic contrasts, with fortissimos and pianissimos very close together, contributing to its unique dynamic energy. They sometimes have a central tune upon which some of the strains are based. An écossaise by Johann Nepomuk Hummel is included in the second volume for piano in the Suzuki Method.

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