Johann Nepomuk Hummel (1778-1837) is a fascinating case history; a composer trapped in a no man's land between the classical and romantic ages.

His works offer glimpses of the new musical worlds that the slightly older Beethoven unlocked but, too often, they wilt under the weight of formulaic doodling with scales and arpeggios.

In 1823-24 Hummel, a former pupil of Mozart, made whittled-down arrangements of his teacher's symphonies and the English publication of them was popular enough to be pirated over the channel.

No doubt they met a ready market in middle-class parlours with symphonic ambitions, able to accommodate a quartet of flute, violin, cello and piano.


Uwe Grodd has painstakingly edited the original scores, describing them as "very good prints, but with 700 to 800 mistakes".

Playing from them, with their many unwitting clashes, might have created the impression that one was listening to a waggish French composer of the 1920s.

His editorial duties done, Grodd the flautist was then joined by violinist Friedemann Eichhorn, cellist Martin Rummel and pianist Roland Kruger to record these transcriptions for Naxos, with the latest set offering the Linz, Haffner and Jupiter Symphonies.

From the start, in these beautifully crisp recordings, it's clear that Hummel, a virtuoso pianist in his time, favours his instrument, which dominates the Linz's lingering Adagio.

In this symphony, the caution of the arrangement does limit its total success, especially in a Poco Adagio where the strings exist very much in the piano's shadow.

Something happens with the final work; perhaps Hummel was especially inspired by the grandeur that gave the Jupiter its nickname.

The flourish of the opening tutti borders on frisky; in its wake, flute and strings are allowed more individuality.

Hummel's instrumental conception is more adventurous in the Andante cantabile.

At one point a few bars of unaccompanied violin from Eichhorn, given out with a touch of rubato, come across as a quintessentially romantic sigh.

Mozart's daring chromatic shifts are exhilarating with the compressed colours of the quartet and, after a Minuet not afraid to take a waltz, the famous Finale bristles with cross-hatched vigour.

Verdict: The Jupiter lives up to its nickname when Hummel takes Mozart symphonies into the parlour.