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Monday, February 25, 2019

Dussek, Complete Piano Sonatas Volume 4, Tuija Hakkita

If you might not think you are the person who would wake up in the morning and exclaim, "It is time to listen to Bohemia-born Johann Ladislaus Dussek (1760-1812)!" perhaps you underestimate yourself? "He's no Beethoven!" one old lady said to the other as we were exiting the concert hall after hearing Colin Davis beautifully perform some Elgar. No Beethoven also is Dussek. Though as a pianist and composer he was at the top of fame during his lifetime. Of course he was more in Papa Haydn's realm age- and period-wise, a Classicist with at the end a nascent Romanticism. And if he did not climb Mt. Olympus easily to occupy a central spot in the Immortal Pantheon, neither is he without merit as a craftsman of the highest rank.

As I contemplate the noteful and peppy Classicism of Dussek's Complete Piano Sonatas Volume Four (Brilliant 85604), as played ably by Tuija Hakkila on a period pianoforte that sounds a bit  more forte than some of the vintage instruments but then charmingly untempered the slightest bit, too.

It cannot say that these particular Dussek sonatas played so well by this particular pianist on this particular instrument is the absolute ideal to me at the moment. To be honest there are times when these old pianos sound a little like sewing machines even though Hakkila gives it all a heroic effort. Perhaps it is the heroism of the music-performance tandem that makes the piano seems less up to the task than a modern instrument? I know this might be heresy but not every combination with a period piano is ideal. The pensiveness of Chopin is a great thing for the old sawbones. Not as much bravura dash such as Dussek gives us in the earlier works here.

Yet I must say that the music itself and the performances do have much to recommend them. We hear quite clearly how well wrought the music is, more perhaps (as I remarked the other day with a Boismortier disk) in terms of an everyday brilliance and not the "heavens-are-opening" paradise of a Moonlight Sonata or Art of the Fugue.

As so like one should not always drink 20-year-old-Scotch, it is probably healthy to spice up our listening with really great yet "average" "folk" music of any period. This way we can plum the most scenic vistas of "sea level" possibilities in between the soaring to the most distant stars of the most sublime music ever? So I feel quite refreshed by this Dussek, even by the almost flawed yet very characteristic period sound of the piano.

It feels like it is 1800 and we are in some drawing room being treated to some lovely sounds as we hear the Sonatas Op. 5 No. 3, the Op. 24, Op. 43 and Op. 61.

The Brilliant price is an incentive to spring for this volume. Whether you'd want the complete Dussek is a matter you'd decide after living with this one for a time. Surely it is no mistake to let yourself be beguiled by these works so dynamically performed. You will understand what Dussek can do, certainly. And he could and can do a lot for us. Even today.

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