Dussek, Johann Ladislaus or Ludwig

1761-1812

His name is spelled Duschek, Dussik and Dussek. He was one of the greatest pianists and composers for the piano of the latter part of the Eighteenth Century. He was born in Czaslau, in Bohemia. His father was a musician of more than ordinary ability , and he began the study of the piano when very young, while attending the Jesuit College at Iglau. Later he was a student at a college in Kuttenberg and then he removed to Prague, where he took a course in philosophy and received the degree of master. He is said to have had a desire at one time to join the priesthood, but later abandoned the idea. He found a friend and patron in Count Manner, of the Austrian army, who took Dussek to Belgium, where he became organist of the Church of St. Rombaut at Mechlin. He next went to Holland, and in Amsterdam and The Hague he won success as a pianist and laid the foundation of his brilliant reputation. Here he produced three concertos and twelve sonatas, and then undertook a course of study with Philipp Emmanuel Bach, a son of the great Sebastian, and we later hear of him in Berlin, in Russia, Italy and Paris where Marie Antoinette took an interest in him and showered many kindnesses upon him. He next went to London, where he met Haydn and Sophie Corri, a well-known singer, who afterward became his wife, and with whose father Dussek went into business as a music-seller. He remained in London twelve years, but the business in which he had embarked failed, and to evade his creditors he left London and gave concerts at Hamburg and other cities. Prince Louis Ferdinand of Prussia, a nephew of Frederick the Great and a talented amateur musician, became his friend and patron, and at the death of the Prince, Dussek composed his Elegie Harmonique, one of his best works. He next found a patron in Talleyrand, Prince of Benevento, and during his residence with him he reached the height of his fame. Living in the days of Beethoven and Mozart, he was conspicuous among such men as Moscheles, Meyerbeer and Cramer. He is noteworthy as the first composer to write, almost wholly, for the piano with or without accompaniment. Some one has said of him: " He made the poetry of the piano into a life work." Dussek's music was exceedingly popular at the beginning of the Eighteenth Century, and his piano music belongs to the period of Mozart rather than Beethoven, and by some is said to be in advance of either Haydn or Mozart. Mendelssohn once said of him: " Dussek is a prodigal," because he wasted his talents, and might have occupied a much higher place than he did, had he only striven to make the most of them. He was never a hard worker and liked to wander from one place to another. As a man he was likable and jolly, remarkably free from jealousy, and ever ready to help another musician in any way possible. His last great composition was L'Invocation, and probably his most famous is the sonata Retour a Paris. He wrote many concertos; trios; sonatas; fugues; variations and waltzes. His concerted chambermusic possesses much merit.