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Piano Concertos


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An Oddity and 2 Piano Concertos from Dussek Feb. 21 2015
By bejart7092 - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
After fleeing the French Revolution in 1789, Bohemian born Jan Ladislav Dussek (1760-1812) spent 10 years in London. In the words of Haydn, "the most honest, politest, and the most excellent man among all composers" became renowned as a concert pianist and as a composer. The first performer to sit with his profile to the audience, he developed a fruitful friendship with the piano builder John Broadwood, receiving one of the very first 5½ octave instruments ever made. The 2 piano concertos featured on this disc show Dussek extending the range and power of the contemporary keyboard.

Written in 1801, the G Minor concerto Op.49 opens with the initial `Allegro' a wistful triple metered dance before a burly orchestral explosion catapults this first movement forward. Replete with horns, trumpets and tympani, it sets up the dramatic entrance of the solo piano. While not quite displaying the depth and resonance of the modern grand, the 1806 Broadwood used in this recording is a close. The same type favored by Beethoven, it demonstrates far more power than the early fortepianos and exhibits a gorgeous crystalline quality in the slower passages.

With lots of glittering finger runs and turn-on-a-dime dynamic shifts, the pianist Andreas Staier has the technical prowess to fully explore the virtuosity that Dussek demands. Gentle winds open the following `Adagio' before the wandering keyboard enters. The dreamlike sound scape recedes as Dussek employs a wide range of temporal changes and volume levels, stretching beyond the usual Classical era slow movement and anticipating the coming Romantic era.

A gypsy tinged `Rondo Allegro' closes the concerto with a swirling maelstrom. The solo piano stands up well against the full force of the orchestra here, although some of the finger runs in the upper register get swallowed up in the resulting fury.

An earlier work, the Concerto in B Flat Op.22 was penned near the beginning of Dussek's London stay. Although exhibiting the elegance and charm that characterize the best of the Classical era, this composition doesn't quite reach the same heights of the later piece. A less robust orchestration and facile cadenza writing hamper the opening `Allegro'.

The delicate `Larghetto' is more successful. With a swaying triple meter and just a hint of urgency from the strings and muted horns, this lovely 2nd movement achieves a delicious intimacy. Blending seamlessly into an interlude added by pianist Staier to counter becoming "weary of B Major", the final "Rondo Allegro' ends the work on a playful, lighthearted note.

An oddity, the 10 part Tableau "Marie Antoinette" Op.23 closes the disc. Narrated by Concerto Koln's double bassist, Jean-Michal Forest, the musical allegory recounts the sequence of events from her imprisonment, through the pronouncement of the death sentence to her deification after her beheading. A wide range of moods are carried by the solo piano, some very brief vignettes. Standouts include scene No.6 `Andante agitato', which depicts the soldiers accompanying the Queen to the scaffolding, and No.9 `Molto adagio' illustrating the tender sorrow immediately preceding the guillotine.

Andreas Staier is superb, bringing a rakish recklessness to the virtuosic faster sections while reaching emotional depths in the slower passages. Stylish and energetic, Concerto Koln provides exceptional accompaniment on the 2 concertos while the recording by Capriccio is first rate.

If you are not familiar with the keyboard compositions of Jan Dussek, this is fine place to begin.

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