Jan Ladislav Dussek
Quintet in f minor, Op.41
For Piano, Violin, Viola, Cello & Bass (Trout Instrumentation)
You are planning to play the Schubert Trout Quintet for piano, violin, viola, cello and bass. But is there anything else? There is. One of the answers to this question is Jan Ladislav Dussek's Piano Quintet in f minor, written more than two decades before the Schubert. (We also publish piano quintets by Johann Nepomuc Hummel and Hermann Goetz for this same combination).
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 Quintet dates from 1799. Dussek probably had few if any examples at hand when he wrote a work for this combination of instruments. Neither, Haydn, Mozart or Beethoven had written anything for piano quintet. It is in three movements, opening with an Allegro moderato ma con fuoco. The writing here, specifically the melodies, in many ways anticipates the early romantic composers such as Carl Maria von Weber and Johann Nepomuc Hummel. What is particularly striking is that Dussek on occasion integrates all of the parts rather than massing the strings against the piano. The lovely middle movement, Adagio espressivo, is a theme and set of variations. The finale, Allegretto ma espressivo e moderato, begins with an appealing melody first presented by piano. The music races along effortlessly.