Jan Ladislav Dussek
Piano Quartet in E flat Major, Op.56
Jan Dussek (Dusek in the Czech form 1760-1812) was one of the first great touring piano virtuosi during the last quarter of the 18th century. He concertized throughout Europe and served as Pianist to the likes of Catherine the Great, whom he was later accused, probably speciously, of trying to assassinate. He also served as pianist for the King of Prussia, Prince Radziwill of Poland, Marie Antoinette and later Talleyrand. While in England, he collaborated with the famous piano maker John Broadwood and encouraged him to extend the piano's range and power. Broadwood’s piano with Dussek’s improvements was eventually sent to Beethoven and became his favorite instrument. Not a lot is known with whom Dussek studied, however, it is thought he may have studied composition with C.P.E. Bach. In any event, he wrote a huge amount of music, most of it for piano in one form or another, including a considerable amount of chamber music with piano. His contemporaries often considered his music very modern and hard to understand because of his use of chromaticism and certain harmonies. Today, of course, they sound more or less typical of the Vienna Classical era.
Dussek's Piano Quartet was dedicated to his star pupil Prince Louis Ferdinand of Prussia a virtuoso pianist and a fine composer in his own right. It dates from 1802. The writing here and the style shares an affinity with that of Carl Maria von Weber and Johann Nepomuc Hummel. In three movements---Allegro affetusoso, Larghetto quasi andante and Allegro moderato, which shows that structurally the work is rooted in the classical era it. However, the melodic writing already is exhibiting some of the trends of very early romanticism.