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Romantic Revolution

Michael Dussek (piano) (SOMM)

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

Romantic Revolution
Chopin: Nocturne No. 5 in F sharp, Op. 15/2; Ballade No. 1; JL Dussek: Piano Sonatas, Op. 35
Michael Dussek (piano)
SOMM SOMMCD 0634   64:12 mins


A little younger than Mozart and a decade older than Beethoven, the Bohemian composer-virtuoso Jan Ladislav Dussek (1760-1812) has been credited with anticipating many developments in 19th-century music. His colourfully cosmopolitan career – which included stints as court favourites of Catherine the Great and Marie Antoinette, and saw him settle longest of all in London, only to move on again when business and marital troubles necessitated his exit – certainly opened musical horizons. It’s true that he was one of several composers who shaped the musical world into which Chopin emerged, but harder to hear the actual connections with Chopin for which Michael Dussek (maybe, or maybe not, a relation) argues in his booklet essay.

The most interesting of Dussek’s three Op. 35 sonatas, No. 3 in C minor, does perhaps anticipate Beethoven’s Pathétique Sonata in the same key – although much of the Dussek on this disc could be said to inhabit generic Beethoven style without the genius. I could maybe have been persuaded by a juxtaposition of this piece with Chopin’s neglected Sonata No. 1 in C minor, but instead Michael Dussek delivers workmanlike performances of the Ballade No. 1 in G minor and the Nocturne in F sharp minor, Op. 15 No. 2.

Anyone hoping to hear the Bohemian composer at his original best would do better to explore recordings by Andreas Staier or Markus Becker, and, most especially, to sample Rudolf Firkušny’s version of his last sonata, Op. 77 in F minor. But still, these accounts of Dussek’s Op. 35 set are worth hearing.


John Allison