Piano Concertos by Rachmaninoff and Hummel

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Piano Concertos by Rachmaninoff and Hummel


Felicja Blumental demonstrates her skill and dexterity performing Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2, one of the most challenging works for pianists worldwide. This CD also includes the rarely heard Rondo Brilliant on a Russian Folk Theme by Hummel.

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Felicja Blumental demonstrates her skill and dexterity performing Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2, one of the most challenging works for pianists worldwide. This CD also includes the rarely heard Rondo Brilliant on a Russian Folk Theme by Hummel.

Sergei Rachmaninoff – Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, Op. 18

Felicja Blumental – piano
Michael Gielen – conductor
Orchestra of the Vienna Musikgesellschaft

  • Moderato (10’12)
  • Adagio sostenuto (9’46)
  • Allegro scherzando (10’49)

Johann Nepomuk Hummel – Rondo Brilliant on a Russian Folk Theme, Op. 98 (16’05)

Felicja Blumental – piano
Helmut Froschauer – conductor
Prague Chamber Orchestra

Total running time (46’54)

Sergei Rachmaninoff was among the greatest pianists and composers of his generation and his Piano Concerto No. 2 has remained one of the most popular and challenging works for pianists worldwide. It is often at the top of classical music radio station listeners polls.

Rachmaninoff’s appetite for composition emerged in 1889 while at the Moscow Conservatory but his early works were unsuccessful in winning public admiration. Glazunov conducted the premiere of his Symphony No. 1 in 1897 who was rumoured to have been under the influence of alcohol. His Piano Concerto No. 1 was also proved unfruitful and as a result, Rachmaninoff suffered a long and painful breakdown but received medical treatment from psychotherapist Dr Nikolai Dahl who specialised in hypnosis and treated him. As his condition stabilised, Rachmaninoff’s desire to compose returned and he began working on a second piano concerto. The score bears a dedication to Dr Dahl as a result.

The première of Piano Concerto No. 2 was given by the Moscow Philharmonic on 27th October 1901, featuring Rachmaninoff himself at the piano and it immediately won public enthusiasm. The performance saw Rachmaninoff exploring more successfully, the emotions, sonorities and the harmonic richness of his work. His reputation as a pianist soared and the triumph led to an American tour and the composition of several larger scale works, including another two piano concertos.

In contrast, Johann Hummel, who experienced a considerably less turbulent career than Rachmaninoff, preferred the lighter toned Viennese style. His developments in the art of piano playing may arguably have contributed to the techniques that Rachmaninoff employed some thirty years later.

Hummel was a respected and popular pianist who sought to develop the art of piano playing and may have encouraged his pupil, Carl Czerny to do the same and compose his famous piano exercises. He composed in almost every musical form with the exception of the symphony. Following his tour of 1822, Hummel found himself drawing on Russian influences and his Rondo Brilliant is a souvenir dedicated to Princess Gertchakoff which incorporates a Russian folk song. The variation and the rondo were forms Hummel particularly enjoyed and this rarely recorded work is a perfect example.

Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873 – 1943)

Sergei Rachmaninoff was born in Semyonova, in 1873 to musical parents (amateur pianists), demonstrating a musical aptitude from a young age. His home environment was far from a fairytale when his father spent the family fortune resulting in a move to St. Petersburg. It was there, Rachmaninoff lost his sister to diptheria and he turned to his grandmother who lived in the country, who inspired him with vocal music and religion. Rachmaninoff studied with Zverev at the Moscow Conservatory (1885 to 1892), graduating as both pianist and conductor. Although his teacher was not keen on composition, Rachmaninoff’s interest in composing grew. Fellow Russian composer, Piotr Il’yich Tchaikovsky was a great encouragement to the young composer so Rachmaninoff was deeply sadded in 1893 when both Tchaikovsky and Zverev died in the same year. His Trio Elegiaque (op. 9) is dedicated to the memory of Tchaikovsky.

Rachmaninoff discovered a place called Ivanovka, where he could record his ideas. He spent many summers returning to his treat which was a great inspiration to him and Rachmaninoff eventually became owner of the estate once his career was established as a pianist and conductor.

His creative output was prolific, composing in many genres: operas, symphonic poems, choral, piano and orchestral music. His Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini has, together with his Piano Concerto No. 2 are among his most popular works.

Johann Nepomuk Hummel (1778 – 1837)

Although Hummel is not a composer who immediately springs to mind from the classical era, he was a popular composer and conductor in his lifetime. An excellent pianist, he was also a friend of Beethoven and Geothe.

Born in Pressburg (now Bratislava), Hummel began reading music and playing the piano at the age of four. Recognising his gifts, Hummel’s father took him to Vienna to meet Mozart who was immediately impressed by his abilities and who invited him to study with him for two years. At the age of 10, Hummel made his concert debut before embarking on a tour of Europe, where he met Haydn. On returning to Vienna, Hummel began studying with Albrechtsberger, Salieri, and Haydn and it was there that Hummel made the acquaintance of the poet, Geothe and other luminaries.

From 1819, both Hummel and Goethe lived in Weimar, Germany, where they were the city’s most popular tourist attractions. It was during this time that Hummel composed some of his greatest works. His pianistic developments, in particular his idea to change musical ornamentation so that trills began on the note written rather than the note above (originally initiated by C.P.E. Bach) have contributed to the modern piano teachings of today.

Curisouly, for many years there was a rift between Hummel and Beethoven. It was only towards the end of Beethoven’s lifetime that the circumstances changed. It was perhaps Hummel’s success that may have caused the rift between the composers but their reconcilation came when Hummel went to see the dying composer in Vienna, in 1827. Hummel performed Beethoven’s works at the memorial service and was also a pall-bearer. Hummel’s death some 10 years later, was seen as the end of an era.


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