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date: 25 May 2020

Hummel, Johann Nepomuklocked

  • Joel Sachs
  • , revised by Mark Kroll


(b Pressburg [now Bratislava], Nov 14, 1778; d Weimar, Oct 17, 1837). Austrian pianist, composer, teacher and conductor. He was considered in his time to be one of Europe’s greatest composers and perhaps its greatest pianist.

Hummel was a prodigy; he is described as having been more advanced at three than most children twice his age. According to Hummel’s father Johannes, a string player and conductor, his son could read music at four, and at five play the violin and piano, and sing with perfect intonation. In 1786, when Hummel was eight, the family moved to Vienna, where Johannes became music director of the Theater auf der Wieden. He later became the music director of Vienna’s Apollo-Tanzsaal.

Hummel made rapid progress as a pianist, becoming a pupil of Mozart at some point in 1786. As Johannes tells us, Mozart was so impressed by the young prodigy that he taught him free of charge; and as was often the arrangement at the time, Hummel lived with the Mozarts and became a de facto member of the family. He played billiards with Mozart and tried out his teacher’s newest compositions, and the pair were often seen together on the streets of Vienna. While living at the Mozarts’ Hummel also had the opportunity to meet, or at least observe, the distinguished guests who frequently visited the Mozart household during this period. These included Lorenzo da Ponte and none other than Haydn, who would sometimes come over to read through string quartets, with Mozart playing viola, Vanhal the cello and von Dittersdorf the second violin....

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