Every so often a Dussek disc comes out and we all wonder that such attractive music should be so neglected. Then it gets neglected. He really was an excellent composer, as the three concertos on this release show, but they also perhaps answer why he’s fallen into such neglect. The first work here dates from sometime before 1783. It consists of two quick movements lasting about fifteen minutes in total. There’s no way that this primitive specimen of classical concerto form would have any viability in the modern concert hall, however pleasing the music might be (and it is very enjoyable).
The Piano Concerto in C Major, Op. 29, dates from about 1795 and employs the standard three movements. It begins with a puckish LarghettoRead more introduction, and the entire piece takes Haydn as its model. The opening tune of the concluding rondo features plenty of rhythmic surprises, plus one of those Slavic minor-key excursions so familiar from Haydn’s Hungarian style. With its fully symphonic first movement (as in it behaves more like a symphony than a concerto), the form is quite different from Mozart’s concertos, and so it doesn’t really fit what we have come to regard as the typically “classical” model.
The Concerto in E flat Major, from 1810, is obviously the most mature work here: big, bold, and confident, with a deliciously relaxed German dance finale, and plenty of virtuosity written into the solo part. The only thing you could say against it is that it’s not Beethoven. So there you have it: early classical, not Mozart, and not Beethoven. Dussek is obviously doomed, and I suspect this will be the story with many of the concertos on Hyperion’s new series devoted to the classical era, of which this is the first release.
The performances here are delightful. Howard Shelley plays all three works with brilliance and a serene confidence in their value as good music. He’s more than ably accompanied by the Ulster Orchestra, which has no problem following his leadership from the keyboard. The engineering is excellent, and I can’t imagine a better start to this new series. Dussek seems to embody all that is most worthwhile about the byways of the classical period. Start collecting now.
Strong start for a new seriesDecember 9, 2014By Ralph Graves (Hood, VA)See All My Reviews"Following the success of their Romantic Piano Concerto series (63 volumes and counting), Hyperion launches a companion series, The Classical Piano Concerto, featuring music from 1770-1820. It marked the rise of the piano virtuoso, the traveling artist who composed primarily to showcase his own talents. Mozart is one of the more famous examples, but certainly not the only one. Jan Ladislav Dussek, whose music launches this series, was another. Dussek was roughly contemporary with Mozart. Born in Bohemia, he made his fortune in France (before the Revolution), lost it in England, regained it touring Europe and eventually settling in post-Revolutionary France. The three concertos on this release traverse his career. The Piano Concerto in C major, Op. 1, No.3 from 1783 is Mozartian in form, with simple, attractive melodies at every turn. The Piano concerto of C major, Op. 29 (1795) is a more fully-developed work. Dussek abandoned the first-movement cadenza, making his later concertos sound like a more collaborative effort between piano and orchestra. The texture of this work is thicker, looking ahead the early Romantic composers, such as Mendelssohn and Weber. The final work, the Piano concerto in E-flat major, Op. 70 (1810) retains the elegance of Haydn, with the more full-bodied orchestration of early Beethoven. Howard Shelley, a veteran of the Romantic Piano Concerto series, performs and conducts the Ulster Orchestra from the keyboard. His clean attacks and articulate phrasing are a joy to listen to. This recording promises that this series will meet the same high standards as the Romantic Piano Concerto series."Report Abuse