(b Meiningen, 5 Aug 1797; d Dresden, 22 Aug 1879). German cellist and composer. He was the most important member of a musical family that flourished in Saxony in the 18th and 19th centuries. The son of Friedrich August Kummer (1770–1849), an oboist at the Meiningen and (from 1805) Dresden courts, he developed into a fine cellist under the supervision of Friedrich Dotzauer. Following the family tradition he also learnt the oboe, and joined the electoral court orchestra as an oboist in 1814; he did not play the cello in the orchestra until after the death of the cellist Karl W. Höckner. In 1852 he succeeded Dotzauer as principal cellist, a position he held until his retirement in 1864. Lacking the inclination to compete with cellists internationally, he remained in Saxony except for making a few concert tours in Italy and elsewhere in Germany. In addition to playing with the court orchestra, as principal cellist and as a soloist, he gave frequent chamber music concerts, notably with the younger Franz Schubert (1808–78) and Karol Lipiński (1790–1861). He was praised for his consistent strength and beauty of tone in every playing position. His ‘truly classical serenity’ provided a reliable support in ensemble playing. He taught the cello both at the Dresden Conservatory and privately, and, together with Dotzauer and Friedrich Grützmacher, was responsible for the high reputation of Dresden cellists in the 19th century; Bernhard Cossmann and Julius Goltermann were among his pupils. Kummer’s grandson, Alexander Karl Kummer, was a pupil of Ferdinand David at the Leipzig Conservatory and a distinguished violinist in London.
Only about half of Kummer’s 400 compositions were published, most of these before 1851. They fall into four principal categories: virtuoso compositions for solo cello and orchestra (written primarily for Kummer’s own use); chamber music – nearly all using the cello – written to suit amateurs; elementary and intermediate studies for the cello; and some 200 entr’actes written for the Dresden court theatre. Of the solo cello works, only the Concertino en forme d’une scène chantante in D minor op.73, modelled after Spohr’s ‘vocal scene’ violin concerto, kept a place in the repertory; most of these works are variations, fantasias and potpourris on popular songs and operatic melodies. Many of the cello studies, particularly the Violoncello-Schule op.60 (Leipzig, 1839), were still in use many years after Kummer’s death.