commentary to opus 70
for percussion and orchestra
II. Allegro vivace
IV. Finale-Vivace beginning
Performance : January 28, 1985, Regensburg, Stadttheater
Percussion instruments: Vibraphone, Marimbaphone, Snare Drum, 2 Bongos, 2 Tomtom, 5 Templeblocks, African Wood Drum, Ratch, 5 Cymbals, Sizzle Cymbal, Chinese Cymbal, Gong, Tamtam, Triangle, 3 Almglocken
Orchestra: 126.96.36.199 - 188.8.131.52 - Timp., Perc. <3 - 4>, Hrp., Strings
Duration: 30 Minutes
Schott Music (Rental)
see: Hummel on youtube
percussion instruments have in recent decades enjoyed more and more emancipation
in a solo role, the chances of a percussion soloist being included in a concert
for a season-ticket audience are still relatively small. In my opinion, this has
less to do with a lack of top-class percussionists than with a lack of suitable
repertoire. With my Percussion Concerto, op. 70, I have attempted to address
Bertold Hummel's Concerto for percussion and orchestra Op.70, which was written between 1978 and 1982, was first performed in Regensburg in 1985. Since its premiere, the work has been performed over 100! times in Germany and elsewhere, and has received an enthusiastic reception rarely accorded to contemporary Classical music. The success of the Hummel concerto is not hard to relate to: the composer managed to create a piece that is not only highly rewarding for percussionists, but also has considerable musical substance. In particular, he manages to resist the above-mentioned seductive powers of the instruments by exercising exemplary discipline and applying strict organisation to his material.
This discipline, however, should not be taken to mean that the soloist is deprived of any chance to demonstrate his virtuosity. But the work is carried by an almost symphonic linking of the accompanying orchestra and the percussion section, clearly evident in the first bars of the Adagio opening movement: like a kind of commentary, the first, organically growing comments from the percussion rise up out of a twelve-note opening chord. In this movement, it is mostly metallic sounds that we hear from the percussion. The Scherzo that follows is dominated by the sounds of wood and drumskin, and this goes as far as a cadenza for the marimba, which audibly takes its character from the B-A-C-H motif that is central to this sonata-form Allegro vivace.
The light-hearted interchange is followed by a Lamentation in which two famous composers meet up. BACH (in English notation B flat-A-C-B) encounters Dimitri Shostakovich (DSCH: in English notation D-E flat-C-B flat) in such a way that a complete twelve-tone scale is created from the intervals between the two series of notes and an another group of four notes. This twelve-tone scale is then used as the basis for a meditative tribute to the great Russian composer.
Altogether in keeping with the Classical tradition, the concerto closes with a virtuoso flourish, which conceals a sonata movement structure rendered less rigid by two vibraphone cadenzas.
Corpus Christi Caller-Times January 20, 1992
beaten instruments at its core, Hummel´s concerto is exotic, as though partaking
of primal sounds. Its evocative power is transmitted within a splendidly composed
envelope of contemporary music. The work — a nightmare shifting time signatures
— is impressionistic and portentous as it builds emotional tension with broad,
sweeping motives and percussive effects.
Berliner Morgenpost, 24th November, 2000
kind of melodic fireworks are possible on marimba and vibraphone was demonstrated
by Sadlo as soloist with the Radio Symphony Orchestra in the Konzerthaus. Bertold
Hummel's virtuoso "Concerto for Percussion and Orchestra" is a showpiece
for the "King of the Sticks". With sensitive instincts, he explored
in the Adagio the sound world of various cymbals, bringing them to life with gentle
tremolos. As nimble as ping-pong balls, the sticks flitted in hair-raising tempo
across the marimba.
Welt, December 2000
Sadlo's solo performance with the Radio Symphony Orchester in the Konzerthaus
brought stamping applause. With cymbals and bongos, gong and chime, xylophone
or marimba, Sadlo made real music. He not only demonstrated that the times are
gone in which the percussion only had the role of a support in the loud passages.
In Bertold Hummel's "Concerto for Percussion and Orchestra" he had a
work in his powerful, agile hands which was worth the efforts of the soloist.
Hummel begins with tones of Bruckner. In an Adagio, the pathos of the trombones
dominates. The percussion replies to this with long-lasting echo and with the
muted droning of the bass drum. In the other three movements, the percussion often
takes the lead. The rattling and clatter, wooden beats and dry knocking, the swish
of the opening cymbals, all developed together to a colourful dialogue in sound.
With the drum-roll of a funeral march, with the song and sonority of chimes, the
music passed through a Great Gate of Kiev. There were hints of Bartok motifs.
But Hummel's opus remains something original and is in addition easily understood.
Rundschau, Dortmund, 1st November, 1995
audience let thunderous applause loose. They were astonished, captivated by the
brilliance of this music ...
Neueste Nachrichten, 14th April, 2003
has composed a genuine concerto, in which the percussion takes the place of the
classical solo instrument, entering into lively dialogue with the orchestra and
with its own cadenzas. This is something rare and the young percussionist Jasmin
Kolberg (29) exploited the freedom offered with intense musicality. With her virtuoso
and sensitive technique, she responded to the partly threatening, partly lamenting
symphonic gestures of the orchestra with the surprising colours and rhythmic figures
of the cadenzas. She even succeeding in the expressive feat of forming a "lament"
from percussive sounds only before these were released into a whirling Vivace.
She was rewarded by stormy applause with stamping of feet.
most affecting movement is the Lamentation, an "in memoriam" piece for
Dmitri Shostakovich, whose musical initials in German D (E)S C H (d, e-flat, c,
b) formed the basis for a kind of funeral march...
3rd April, 1998
"concertante" rivalry between soloist and orchestra, in complete accordance
with the principle of a solo concerto ...
Zeitung, Dresden 1996
With great skill and effect, Hummel used on the one hand delicate timbres, on the other powerfully expressive means (reminding us of Rolf Liebermann's Concert for Jazz Band and Orchestra) to enable the solo percussionist to present himself in a most effective way.
CD Tip Bavarian Radio:
Bach would certainly have found pleasure in this Concerto for Percussion and Orchestra
by Bertold Hummel, whose second movement opens with a most original play on the
famous B-A-C-H motif. Even in his church cantatas, Bach himself composed very
rhythmically, much to the disapprobation of his pious Christian contemporaries
("dance-like trifles"). Bertold Hummel's Concerto for Percussion and
Orchestra connects B-A-C-H (b-flat, a, c, b) with the twentieth century using
D-S-C-H (d, e-flat, c, b) for Dmitri Shostakovich. A musicological homage of great
expressive power, earnest and profound. On his new CD, "Percussion in Concert",
artistic insight characterises Peter Sadlo's interpretation of this work (first
performed in 1985). Sadlo is the sovereign tactical mastermind when he, together
with the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra under Wolfgang Rögner, sets everything
in motion that percussion has to offer. The expression "virtuosic" is
a feeble rendering of what happens here. One is forced to think of those Indian
gods with more than two arms at their disposal when one hears Peter Sadlo at work,
awaking with wood and membrane his battery of percussion including vibraphone
and marimba. Peter Sadlo offers percussion exceeding all you could imagine in
effects, tension and timbre but not remaining purely effects. Bertold Hummel's
Concerto for Percussion and Orchestra is the central work on this CD.