Dussek Complete Piano Sonatas Vol. 3 – Better Than They Sound

Brilliant’s traversal of Dussek piano sonatas continues with two major compositions. The Op. 44 Sonata “Farewell” was completed in 1799 and marks the end of an era. The 1812 Op. 77 sonata “L’Invocation” looks forward to the next era.

The Sonata in E-flat major, Op. 44 is large, four-movement work. It runs about 30 minutes. It’s about the same length as Beethoven’s Op. 14 piano sonatas, published around the same time. Dussek’s sonata differs in that it seems to look backward, rather than forwards.

The sonata is carefully structured, reflecting the classical balance of Haydn. There is drama, but it’s somewhat understated. Above all, the “Farewell” sonata is elegant and refined.

The Piano Sonata in F minor, Op. 77 is quite a contrast. “L’Invocation” has roiling left-hand figures that give the work an urgent energy. Here the drama is front and center, with plenty of pianistic fireworks. There were sections that seemed to anticipate Chopin and a few where I could almost hear Liszt.

Alexei Lubimov performs both sonatas as appropriate. His performance of the Op. 44 sonata is light and understated. For the Op. 77 sonata, he lets loose, delivering crashing crescendos and highly emotive passages.

I’d say that Lubimov’s performance is outstanding despite his instrument. Brilliant chose to record these sonatas using instruments of the period. A 1799 Longment Clementi fortepiano was used for this recording. According to the liner notes, it was restored in 2002. Still, to my ears, it sounded tinny and muffled. The action, although not especially noisy, seemed a little slow.

If you’re interested in the music (and you should be), invest in this recording. But if the sound of the early pianoforte interferes with your listening experience, I’d recommend the Frederick Marvin modern piano recordings on Sono Luminus.

Jan Ladislav Dussek
Complete Piano Sonatas, Vol. 3
Sonatas Op. 44 & Op. 77
Alexei Lubimov, piano
Brilliant 95607

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