The Austrian composer Johann Nepomuk Hummel was one of the greatest piano virtuosos of his day and a highly influential composer whose works bridged the Classical and Romantic Styles. He was a pupil of Mozart’s, even living with him for a time, and critics of the day put him on par with Ludwig van Beethoven, although the latter began to overshadow him over time.
Hummel was born in present-day Bratislava, Slovakia. His father introduced him to the violin at a young age, and he was quickly recognized as a prodigy, achieving a remarkable level of musicianship by the age of five. The next year, he took up the piano, which quickly became his primary instrument.
Although he was blessed with an overabundance of talent at a young age, a certain part of Hummel’s success must be attributed to good fortune as, upon his family’s move to Vienna, Hummel was chosen by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart to both live and study with him. By the time of his tenth birthday, he had finished his studies with Mozart and had gone on to tour throughout Europe as a child-piano prodigy, playing throughout Austria, Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands and England over the course of the next four years. During this time he also spent one year in London studying with the prominent Italian composer Muzio Clementi.
In 1793 Hummel returned to his home base of Vienna, where he essentially sequestered himself, studying intensively with Antonio Salieri, Johann Georg Albrechtsberger and Franz Joseph Haydn. These years were a marked contrast to his childhood celebrity period, and Hummel did not play a single public recital for nearly a decade. However, it was still an incredibly prolific time for the teenage musician. Not only were the contacts he made at this time indispensable for his later career opportunities, they were also the catalyst for a period of intense composition.