commentary to opus 30

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Symphony No.2 "Reverenza" Op. 30 (1966)

I. Fanfare beginning

II. Fantasia

III. Finale concertante beginning


Première: march 29, 19966, Würzburg, Hochschule für Musik
Orchester der Hochschule für Musik Würzburg / Hanns Reinartz

Orchestra: - - Timp., Perc., Hrp., Strings

Duration: 25 Minutes

Publisher: N. Simrock Hamburg-London (Boosey & Hawkes)

Conventus Musicus CM 108

Video: Works by Hummel on youtube

Introduction to the composition

The Symphony No.2 "Reverenza" resulted from a commission for the dedication of a new concert hall. The subtitle "Reverenza" can perhaps be understood as a gesture of respect for a century-old tradition.

The 1st movement, FANFARE, with a rhythmically and dynamically formed 12-tone melody in slow tempo. This melody appears four times in the course of the movement, subdividing material which is otherwise carried relentlessly forward by the dominating fanfare motif.


This pastoral-like slow movement opens with a widely sweeping, rhapsodic flute solo with an improvisatory feeling. After a short orchestral tutti, the clarinet picks up the thread and spins it further, an orchestral tutti leads into a horn quartet, which then gives place to a string quartet episode with a quasi cadenza for the solo 1st violin. The oboe takes up the pastoral tone of the beginning again - in the tutti great force is achieved - a solemn transition for trombones - Sarabande-like intensification over the ostinato in the basses and timpani. A brief reprise of the flute solo closes this particularly colourful movement.


The virtuoso final movement with its instrumental exuberance has a expressly dramatic character. Against a background full of tension, the gregorian "Te deum laudamus" appears, opposing a fully chromatic 12-tone theme. Initially in contrast - as the movement progresses increasingly penetrating and interweaving with each other - at the end the hymn-like "Te deum" dominates. With a densely woven contrapuntal climax involving all the themes, the work closes. The first three notes of the symphony - both melodically and harmonically combined - are constantly present throughout all movements and "peg down" the symphonic construction.

The work has enjoyed since its première on the 29th March, 1966 an ever-increasing popularity at home and abroad. In 1982 alone it was performed seven times, in Nuremberg, Limoges, Foix, Pau, Tarbes, Biarritz and Ansbach.

Bertold Hummel


In his 2nd Symphony, beside a constant use of harmonies based on fourths, we find a prefernce for certain well-known musical formulas, which awake at the first hearing a feeling of familiarity with the work: elements of chorale, march, fanfare and jazz with scale passages and triad figures. On this basis we understand the title of the symphony as a respectful bow to a centuries-old musical tradition.

.I. Fanfare: there are two essential formal features of this strongly expressive opening movement: a melodic 12-tone row in the bass, initially introduced in unison in forceful "crescendo", and a fanfare-motif in the brass. In constant alternation, a relationship develops between the two motifs, interwoven both vertically and horizontally. Thus there results a exceptionally multi-layered and expressive picture in sound. After a quiet episode, introduced by harp and vibraphone, a weighty sound block develops in the full orchestra with the transformed unison-idea in the bass. The next phase becomes more tranquil, giving way to a nothing less than mystical section: flutter tonguing in flute and piccolo with tremolo in the vibraphone over a foundation of trills in strings and cymbals, in addition a "calling" trombone motif. After a renewed presentation of the two principal ideas in opposition, a penetrating ostinato figure follows in the violins and leads to a powerful close.

II. Fantasia: a widely sweeping, rhapsodic flute solo of improvisatory character opens the pastoral slow movement. The clarinet carries this atmosphere further in a yet more extensive solo (partly over a glittering orchestral background: harmonics in the strings, running passages in the harp, cymbal rolls and vibraphone figures. Then the high wind instruments and strings take the lead with a rhythmically captivating motif. A horn quartet forms a bridge to an extended string quartet episode (with a cadenza in the 1st violin). The pastoral atmosphere of the beginning returns with the oboe, in the tutti there follows a powerful climax: solemn trombone chorale, mounting sarabande-like intensity over an ostinato in basses and timpani. A return of the flute solo closes this exceptionally colourful movement.

III. Finale Concertante: an unusually virtuoso, vital and exuberant Finale! Structure and tension result from the polarity of the two principal themes: a 12-tone row, an embodiment of the diabolical principal, stands in opposition to the gregorian Te deum. Ascending scales introduce the first theme in imitation, out of which accompanying figures for a hymn-like trombone solo crystallise. A short moment of calm (clarinet, lower brass) provides energy for a very accentuated episode in rumba rhythm (woodwind, bongos), at the end of which a strong march theme emerges, joining with the hymn motif in a wave of massive sound. Then the sound of the bongos and cutting chords in the brass determine a development-like section. Once again, the woodwind idea and the trombone motif appear. With the racing scales of the beginning, the reprise starts to emerge, but is continued in a free form, in which trumpets, with a further hymn-like motif, provide the climax. A slowing of the tempo as well as more transparency through the use of solo instruments introduce more calm. A large-scale intensification leads into a weighty unison theme in horns and strings. In the coda, the different elements (bongos, woodwind theme, march idea, etc.) appear in dense combination. There is further intensification. Horn fanfares announce another march motif, rising waves of woodwind and string sound are crowned by the radiant chorale in the trumpets. The highly effective "Reverenza" with its echoes of tradition leaves us on a darkened final E-flat chord.

Dieter Wittenbrock


Structure of the first movement



Nürnberger Nachrichten 19th April, 1986

With his op. 30 from the year 1966, entitled "Reverenza", Hummel does not break radically with harmonic tradition, but does however in his free use of 12-tone technique and its internal tensions attain his own individual vital colour and artistic significance. The 20 minute symphony is full of compositional ideas, artistically wrought and consistent in form.

Out of pleasant sounding unison chords, the first movement ("Fanfare") arises, re-works its material in clearly structured interwoven textures; with the central movement ("Fantasia") delicate melody comes into play and mounts to a climactic finale in a frequently fragmented, passionately moving Espressivo.


Fränkisches Volksblatt 16th March, 1987

A conception of great dimensions on many levels reveals itself in Hummel’s breath-taking and skilfully developed 2nd Symphony.

Deutsche Tagespost, 9th October, 1974

In his second symphony, Bertold Hummel pays his respects to the compositional tradition from which he has come and to the present day, but he remains fully himself in every bar. His unisons with the intermezzi and a march-like trimming for the brass in the first movement have the wide sweep and the archetypally German romantic feel of a Mathis or of a world harmony in Hindemith style.


Hofer Anzeiger, Frankenpost, 22nd March, 2004

Bertold Hummel's second Symphony, with the respectful title "Reverenza", has something of both halves of the evening, the classical-romantic as well as the classical-modern. The atonal musical language belongs to the 20th century; at the same time, the orchestra remained within traditional dimensions. At the same time, the gong droned along, the drum rattled - and the vibraphone added a sensual and longing vibrant sound to the mixture.
Boggasch and the orchestra shaped Hummel's highly artistic orchestration with nuances. Energetic and full of effects, the brass entered sharply alongside and against the curtains of string sound, the latter applying heavy pressure to the whole. The third movement even recalls the insistent driving motion we know from Arthur Honegger. But the principal feature and masterpiece proved to be the middle movement, a fabulous "Fantasia", developing from something like a chamber concerto for flute, then for clarinet, then finally for string quartet, creating its atmosphere with sublimity as well as sureness of touch.


Fränkisches Volksblatt, 31st March, 1966

Besides Beethoven's 8th Symphony, which is equally full of, and affirmative towards, life, the programme included Mozart's Piano Concerto KV 466 and a première, Bertold Hummel's irrepressibly lively Reverenza. The modern work opened the evening. Bertold Hummel - one of the teachers at the State Conservatory who is adding to its reputation - has written his Reverenza, no doubt also a tribute to this institution, for a large orchestra. The brass extended as far as the tuba, the row of assembled double-basses protruded deep into the middle of the platform, and in the background three musicians were positioned at the percussion, amongst them Siegfried Fink, the director of the Percussion Studio, respected not only in Germany as an avantgardist in his field. Much equipment passed through his hands, for Bertold Hummel had provided for rich and colourful percussion. The first movement, named Fanfare, announces this right away, the music creates tension, it is as if someone had lit a fire, the way the sparks fly from the instruments in all corners until the whole thing bursts into flame: a music that illuminates rapidly and energetically. Fantasia, the second movement: the flutes introduce it, the plucking of the harp comes in between, the bold calls of the clarinets - Bertold Hummel is not only a composer with temperament, demanding agility from the instruments, he also exploits them with a fine sense of their capabilities, he works with their sound and they trust themselves in his hands as one who knows them. Dance-like movement then in the Finale concertante, at times a whirlwind, sensitively nervous. The performance by the Orchestra of the Bavarian State Conservatory showed nuances in every sense as they mastered it all under the baton of Prof. Hanns Reinartz.

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