J.L. Dussek and his role in the development of the piano repertory

Carroll, Mora (2003). J.L. Dussek and his role in the development of the piano repertory. PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000f73e


The Bohemian composer Jan Ladislav Dussek (1760-1812), was one of the most important pianist composers of his day. Although his music was popular in his life time it has subsequently received little attention. However, there were a few publishers who continued to sell his compositions and a nucleus of enthusiastic amateurs who continued to play them.

This dissertation attempts to set out the main influences behind Dussek's piano style. It examines his treatment of keyboard textures, and investigates his composing techniques where he introduces widely spaced accompaniment patterns, melodic figurations, extensive doubling and technical difficulties , culminating in his famous Plus Ultra piano sonata.

Dussek, like many of his contemporaries, wrote the music for his own keyboard performance. His arrival in London, when the English piano was at the threshhold of new improvements, was a fortuitous step in his career as a composer and performer. It was at this period in 1789 that his association with the piano manufacturer John Broadwood began and when, at Dussek's suggestion, the keyboard compass was initially extended from 5 to 5 1/2 octaves. The extra notes in the treble were known as the Additional Keys, they became a significant element in Dussek's elaborate figurations, which he developed in his piano concertos, and to a lesser extent in his piano sonatas and chamber works from 1793 onwards.

The main objective of this dissertation is to bring together and discuss the new features introduced by Dussek into his works. The realizatio n of this objective, in turn, will be of value for the following reasons. First, a clearer picture of his contribution to piano style will emerge. Second, an assessment of his compositions by contemporary and posthumous critics will be shown. Finally, a better understanding of his role in the development of the piano repertory will be reached.

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