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  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

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Klassik-heute

Jan Ladislav DUSSEK (Jan Ladislav DUSÍK) (1760-1812)
Concerto in E flat major Op.70 C238 (1810) [27.50]
Sonata in F sharp minor Op.61 C211 (1806) [14.20]
Sonata in A flat major Op.64 C221 (1807) [30.06]
Jan Novotný (piano)
Prague Philharmonia/Leoš Svárovský
Recorded at the Domovina Studio, Prague, May and June 1999
SUPRAPHON SU 3659-2 031 [72.28]


 

Dussek – or Dusík – was an impressively versatile composer for the keyboard and one who absorbed his heritage whilst retaining exploratory ambitions well beyond the ordinary. The Sonata in F sharp major, written in 1806, was a memorial piece for Dussek’s patron Prince Louis Ferdinand of Prussia and is subtitled Elégie harmonique. Written in two compact movements it’s nevertheless full of impressive touches. There’s great pathos in the rolled chords of the Lento poetico, which generate an intimacy before the imposition of an agitato section of considerable vehemence. There is a quotation from Haydn embedded here – from the Seven Last Words – that gives the work an even greater depth, without ever calling attention to itself. The finale is powerfully propelled and the lyric moments serve to increase the trajectory of the tribute still further.

In terms of virtuosity, daring and imagination however this sonata has to cede to the Op.64 in A flat major given the title Le retour à Paris to illustrate Dussek’s return to the city in 1807. This is a real barnstormer of a sonata, writ large in four movements, and an example of the Bohemian composer’s fabled technical accomplishment. There’s knotty writing a-plenty in the first movement, with plenty of adrenalin coursing left hand work and a prescient sense of burgeoning proto-Romanticism inescapable throughout. If ever there was a composer who stood on the cusp between the classical and the romantic periods it was Dussek – and as ever in these cases, as in the contemporaneous case of romantic poetry, critical divisions between adamantine "periods" tend to dissolve. The slow movement is expressive enough, though it never seeks to establish a tragic countenance – it plays on rich full left hand chording and right hand delicacy and tracery – but harmonically as ever Dussek is advanced. The Minuet has an infectious sense of circularity – of going around in tension generating circles – before finally resolving. And the finale is a heavy-booted, humorous, strongly accented example of terpsichorean decisiveness. Truly arresting.

The Concerto was the last Dussek wrote and it does sound, for all its attractive features, somewhat less innovative and forward looking than the companion sonatas. There’s certainly a strong Haydnesque lineage. There’s an expansive solo, replete with rippling figuration, and there are powerful counter themes as well as a spine of lyrical boldness. The slow movement is quite pert and has a certain rococo charm, larded with decorative right hand flourishes. Marked Allegretto moderatissimo – there’s an injunction not to sprint if ever there was one – the finale is confidence personified. Though note the careful modulations and the clever harmonies; listen out for the horns as well. This is a spirited and genial work written by a composer fully in control of his material.

The performances are themselves genial. Andreas Staier has recorded both sonatas in his Dussek series, an original instrument release I’ve not yet heard. Novotný takes a rather middle of the road approach but his solutions are invariably sensitive; tempos aren’t rushed, timbral matters are well explored and there’s plenty of colour in his textures. Other performances can make Dussek sound more bracing, rather more modernistic, but he’s still a thoroughly reliable guide. The recorded sound is warm, the notes brief though to the point.

Jonathan Woolf

 



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