Jan Ladislav Dussek Sonatas, Vol. 7 – simple vs. complex

Volume Seven of Brilliant Classics’ on-going series has a nice balance. Jan Ladislav Dussek’s massive sonata “Retour à Paris” is offset by the featherweight the Op. 47 “Sonata facile.”

Sonata faciles were just that — easy sonatas. Designed for the amateur, these works were simple in structure, and simple to perform.

Mozart and Beethoven both wrote sonata facile. And like Dussek, they imbued their works with more than superficial prettiness.

Dussek’s Op. 47 sonatas have appealing melodies and stripped-down harmonies. But they also have solid structures.

Within the confines of the genre, Dussek creates two sonatas that make the most of their motifs. Themes develop in interesting ways, and there’s a sense of purpose with both these works (beyond selling sheet music to amateurs).

The Sonata in A flat major, “Retour à Paris” clocks in at 35 minutes. Dussek’s musical language seems quite close to Schubert in this work. This 1807 work reflects Dussek’s emotions of returning to a post-Revolution Paris.

The first two movements have a nostalgic air about them, mourning the Paris he left before the Revolution. The stormy scherzo leads to an upbeat rondo that suggests reconciliation with the Paris of Napoleon.

 

It’s about as far removed from the sonata facile as one can get. This is a work for the professional pianist — and one of Dussek’s considerable ability.

Zvi Meniker possesses such an ability. His performance of the Op. 64 sonata was a joy to experience. Runs are clean and precise and climaxes satisfyingly dramatic. Meniker shapes the melodies carefully, calling attention to the structure of the work and keeping the listener oriented as it progresses.

Meniker performs at a 1797 Clementi fortepiano restored by Chris Maene. It sounds great (not something I’m likely to say). The action is quiet and responsive. The tone is very close to that of a modern piano. It serves Meniker’s performances well, as Meniker serves Dussek’s sonatas well.

Jan Ladislav Dussek: Complete Piano Sonatas, Vol. 7
Sonata in D Op.47 Nos.1 & 2; Sonata in A flat Op.64 ‘Retour à Paris’
Zvi Meniker, fortepiano
Brilliant Classics 95606

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