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Piano Concerto in E flat major, Op 70
1810; C238

'Dussek: Piano Concertos' (CDA68027)
Dussek: Piano Concertos
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'Hyperion monthly sampler – August 2014' (HYP201408)
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Movement 1: Allegro brillante ma non troppo
Movement 2: Adagio ma non troppo lento
Movement 3: Rondo: Allegretto moderatissimo

Piano Concerto in E flat major, Op 70  

Piano Concerto in E flat major, Op 70
Dussek’s Piano Concerto in E flat major, Op 70 (1810), is contemporaneous with the first efforts in the genre by Weber, Hummel and Ries, mid-to-late concertos by Cramer, Field, and Steibelt, and Beethoven’s final two piano concertos (No 4 in G major, 1808, and No 5 in E flat major, ‘Emperor’, 1810). By comparison with Dussek’s earlier concertos (and those of other composers), this concerto presents a greatly expanded first movement. Following a lengthy transition in the first ritornello, the secondary theme is presented in the dominant, a modulation never encountered at this point in the earlier Dussek concertos. The illustrious critic Donald Francis Tovey, in his famous essay ‘The Classical Concerto’, cautioned against just such a modulation, in which the first tutti ‘merges into symphonic writing’. Tovey might have described this section of Dussek’s protracted transition (as he did, perhaps pejoratively, Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No 3) as ‘sheer symphonic exposition: it arouses no expectation of the entry of the solo instrument and … leaves nothing essential for the pianoforte to add when its time comes’. There is an essential difference, however, between Dussek’s and Beethoven’s use of thematic material: as we have seen, in Dussek’s typical practice the soloist contributes his own, distinct thematic elements, and does therefore add essential material. Beethoven’s conception represents a greater engagement between the soloist and orchestra, with a sharing (or struggle for ownership) of the thematic material used in common.

The first movement has some novel structural features. Breaking with the typical concerto recapitulation scheme, where all the tutti and solo thematic material is obligatorily restated, Dussek substantially abridges and alters the recapitulation in the first movement, perhaps because he sensed that the movement would otherwise be too long. We reach a final trill for the soloist, preparing the way for the final confirmation of the tonic key, but Dussek resolves this unexpectedly onto the flattened submediant (C flat major), further extending this closing passage before the delayed confirmation of E flat major at the arrival of the closing (third) ritornello. Digressions are a salient feature of many of Dussek’s concertos, but this harmonic detour is entirely new to the recapitulation—it did not occur in the exposition.

The lovely second movement in B flat major is cast in a typically lyrical, ternary design. The movement is replete with concertante exchanges between the piano, winds and strings, revealing Dussek’s excellence in the subtleties of orchestration (and perhaps causing us to lament that he did not compose other large-scale orchestral works). Dussek once again incorporates a side-stepping harmonic resolution, away from the expected sonority of F major, down a major third to D flat major, before returning home to B flat major.

Op 70 concludes with a jovial rondo in E flat major, with Dussek again brandishing a colourful orchestral palette. The middle section of the rondo, typically a developmental area, passes through several distant keys, including the enharmonic Neapolitan (E major), a colourful, even shocking harmonic juxtaposition at this point. Again, wonderful concertante exchanges abound.

from notes by Stephan D Lindeman © 2014

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