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Hummel, Johann Nepomuk

HUMMEL, JOHANN NEPOMUK (1778-1837), German composer and pianist, was born on the 14th of November 1778, at Pressburg, in Hungary, and received his first artistic training from his father, himself a musician. In 1785 the latter received an appointment as conductor of the orchestra at the theatre of Schikaneder, the friend of Mozart and the librettist of the Magic Flute. It was in this way that Hummel became acquainted with the composer, who took a great fancy to him, and even invited him to his house for a considerable period. During two years, from the age of seven to nine, Hummel received the invaluable instruction of Mozart, after which he set out with his father on an artistic tour through Germany, England and other countries, his clever playing winning the admiration of amateurs. He began to compose in his eleventh year. After his return to Vienna he completed his studies under Albrechtsberger and Haydn, and for a number of years devoted himself exclusively to composition. At a later period he learned song-writing from Salieri. For some years he held the appointment of orchestral conductor to Prince Eszterhazy, probably entering upon this office in 1807. From 1811 to 1815 he lived in Vienna. On the 18th of May 1813 he married Elisabeth Rockl, a singer, and the sister of one of Beethoven's friends. It was not till 1816 that he again appeared in public as a pianist, his success being quite extraordinary. His gift of improvisation at the piano was especially admired, but his larger compositions also were highly appreciated, and for a time Hummel was considered one of the leading musicians of an age in which Beethoven was in the zenith of his power. In Prussia, which he visited in 1822, the ovations offered to him were unprecedented, and other countries France in 1825 and 1829, Belgium in 1826 and England in 1830 and 1833 added further laurels to his crown. He died in 1837 at Weimar, where for a long time he had been the musical conductor of the court theatre. His compositions are very numerous, and comprise almost every branch of music. He wrote, amongst other things, several operas, both tragic and comic, and two grand masses (Op. 80 and in). Infinitely more important are his compositions for the pianoforte (his two concerti in A minor and B minor, and the sonata in F sharp minor), and his chamber music (the celebrated septet, and several trios, etc.). His experience as a player and teacher of the pianoforte was embodied in his Great Pianoforte School (Vienna), and the excellence of his method is further proved by such pupils as Henselt and Ferdinand Hiller. Both as a composer and as a pianist Hummel continued the traditions of the earlier Viennese school of Mozart and Haydn; his style in both capacities was marked by purity and correctness rather than by passion and imagination.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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