43. Jan Ladislav Dussek [365 Composers for 2013]


12th February – Jan Ladislav Dussek


Dussek ( February 12th 1760 – March 20th 1812) is our composer for 12th February, to mark the day of his birth.
Nationality: Czech
Lifespan: 52 years
Genre: Classical
Education: University of Prague (briefly)
Fame Ranking: 5

Despite being something of a lazy student, Dussek had a glittering career as a composer and pianist, touring throughout Europe and fraternizing with the VIPs of his day. Although he was born into the Classical era, his compositions anticipated the Romantic style, with showy contrasts of feeling and drama. He was a showman in the concert hall and met with considerable success – with spells in The Netherlands, Germany, Russia, Lithuania, France and England, as well as on his home soil. In Russia he was close to Catherine the Great, and in Paris he hobnobbed with Marie Antoinette. In England, he conducted business with Broadwood, the famous piano maker, and reputedly sent one of his improved pianos to Beethoven.

Beethoven certainly knew Dussek’s music – Dussek composed primarily for the piano and also the harp, which was his mother’s instrument. His father was also a professional musician. It is thought that Dussek’s music had considerable influence on Beethoven. Dussek’s works for harp remain an important part of that instrument’s repertoire.

In later life, Dussek became proficient at playing the glass harmonica. This instrument comprises a set of glass bowls or glasses, which are rubbed to to produce a crystal clear musical note. The bowls are filled with water to produce different notes of the scale. Clearly, Dussek liked to perform in front of an audience and such an instrument would have made an impressive show. Dussek is also credited as being the first ever concert pianist to sit with his profile facing the audience – a pose which has been adopted by all performing pianists ever since.



Here is Dussek’s melodramatic “The Sufferings of the Queen of France” (referring to Marie Antoinette)



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