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March 20 1812: Death of Dussek



J. L. Dussek
On March 20, 1812, Jan Ladislav Dussek died of gout. Dussek was a Czech composer, pianist and favourite of Marie Antoinette and Talleyrand. He may have also met a young Napoleon during his time in France.  Dussek introduced a number of innovations but was later overshadowed by Beethoven. One interesting "innovation" credited to Dussek  is that he is reported to have been the first concert pianist to have placed the piano sideways allowing the audience to view his profile. Dussek led an extremely interesting life, as noted Edward Rothstein in a review in the New York Times in 1983:  
...Jan Ladislav Dussek (1760-1812), represented on the program by his Concerto for Two Pianos in B flat (Op. 63), had the sort of life Stendhal might have invented. Born in Bohemia, Dussek studied in Prague and had a relatively respectable early career teaching piano and performing. He played for Catherine the Great in St. Petersburg in 1783, but he was said to have been involved in a plot against the Czarina. He fled to Lithuania, and a year later, toured Germany playing the glass harmonica - an instrument constructed on the same principle as fingers rubbing the rims of wine glasses.
In 1786, three years before the French Revolution, Dussek journeyed to Paris, where he attracted the attention of both Marie Antoinette and a young man named Napoleon. But such aristocratic connections did not prove helpful a few years later, whereupon Dussek fled to England. He became associated with his father-in-law in a musical-publishing business, which soon enough went bankrupt. Dussek fled yet again, to Hamburg in 1799, leaving behind a wife and a daughter whom he never saw again, and a father-in-law who was jailed for their debts.
In his later performing career - one of the first ever of a touring pianist - he was said to have been the first to play the instrument with his profile facing the audience. As kapellmeister to Prince Louis Ferdinand of Prussia he accompanied the Prince to the various battlefields of his kingdom, and beginning in 1807, he served, with more respectability, as musician for Talleyrand in Paris. The Grove Dictionary tactfully refers to him in his last months as an ''obese'' man who ''drank too much.'' He died of gout. So popular was he, that a 12 volume collected edition of his works was published just after his death.
J.L.Dussek: String Quartet op.60 no.3in E flat major - 4th mov.: Finale. Allegro moderato






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