JAN LADISLAV DUSSEK (1760 - 1812)
Born and educated in Bohemia, latterly at the University of Prague,
Dussek for some years led a peripatetic existence as a pianist
that took him to Holland, to Russia, to Lithuania, to various
cities in Germany, with possible lessons from C.P.E.Bach in Hamburg
and, in 1786, to Paris. With the revolution he took refuge, in
1789, in London, where he married the singer, pianist and harpist
Sophia Corri. Here he joined his father-in-law in music publishing
and persauded the piano-maker Broadwood to extend the range of
the keyboard. In 1799, with the failure of his business, Dussek
moved to Hamburg, performed successfully in Bohemia and entered
the service of Prince Louis Ferdinand of Prussia, whose death
he mourned in an elegiac piano sonata. His final years were spent
in the service of Talleyrand in Paris, where he died in 1812.
Dussek wrote a number of concertos for piano, piano and harp and two pianos. He makes some demands for virtuosity in music that was much admired in his own time.
Chamber music by Dussek includes a number of sonatas for violin and piano and some for piano trio. The harp features quite extensively in original compositions and transcriptions, there are string quartets, piano quintets and a Serenade for nonet. A topical novelty is The Naval Battle and Total Defeat of the Dutch Fleet by Admiral Duncan, scored for piano, violin, cello and percussion.
As a pianist, Dussek wrote a number of works for piano. These include The Sufferings of the Queen of France (The Farewell), written in 1793, and Elégie harmonique sur la mort du Prince Lous Ferdinand de Prusse (Harmonic Elegy on the Death of Prince Louis Ferdinand of Prussia), in addition to a series of less programmatic sonatas, many in an incipient romantic idiom that has some passing resemblance at times to the musical idiom of other composers.