Jan Ladislav Dussek
String Quartet No.1 in G major, Op.60 No.1
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. Dussek is thought to 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.
Virtually the only chamber music Dussek wrote which did not include the piano are his three Op.60 string quartets composed in 1806. Writing to his publisher Dussek comments, "These quartets are not in the style of Haydn, Mozart or Pleyel--they are in the style of Dussek and that in and of itself should make some noise in the musical world! " Composed after Haydn's last quartet (Op.103) and before Beethoven's Op.18, Dussek clearly hoped that these works would place him into the front rank of contemporary composers. That, of course, did not happen, however the quartets are historically important because Dussek did preserve his own style of writing which falls somewhere between late classicism and early romanticism. Surprisingly, Op.60 No.1 is only in three movements despite the fact that four was more or less the norm by that time. The opening Allegro grazioso is elegant, light hearted and well constructed. The Larghetto non troppo lento because of the way it is written sounds nothing much like a slow movement but rather a flowing serenade. The finale, Tempo di polacca, is a charming and buoyant Polonaise.
Here is a work well-worth playing not only because of its historical importance but in its own right as an appealing work where a fresh alternative to Haydn or Mozart is sought. Our edition is based on the 1806 Breitkopf and Härtel but we added rehearsal letters.
Parts & Score: $31.95