Jan Ladislav Dussek wrote a significant amount of music for
the combination of harp and fortepiano, some for concert performance
and others for the attention of amateurs. This disc, the second
in the series, gives us a taste of both kinds of work. An added
attraction is that Masumi Nagasawa plays on a c.1815 single
action pedal harp made by F.J. Naderman of Paris and Richard
Egarr plays an 1804 Broadwood Grand Piano. François Naderman
was Dussek’s harpist colleague in his last years in Paris,
with whom he played many concerts.
Egarr is writing no more than the truth when he says in his
booklet note that the sonorities of these instruments blend
so well, so magically in fact, that it can be very difficult
at times to work out at which point the harp ends and the Broadwood
takes over, or indeed which instrument is carrying the melody
line at any given moment. There is piquancy in this timbral
coiling. And if nothing else this disc, released in the 200th
year of Dussek’s death - Egarr doubts many pianists will
be playing his works, so out of fashion is the Bohemian composer
- will serve to show just how well the use of original instruments
can convey the special combination’s particular sonorities.
The music is vital, exciting, and full of colour and sentiment.
The Duo Concertant of 1811 has ear-titillating breadth,
but a real ‘thwack’ to the unison passages and demonstrates
how easily the two instruments can blend seemingly to produce
a new one; a kind of ‘forteharp’ or ‘harpopiano’,
perhaps. The Larghetto in this work shows Dussek’s
seemingly inexhaustible fund of expressive writing, though the
B section also reveals his ear for big-boned contrastive material.
He invariably ends with a sporting Rondo, relishing the
full resources of both instruments.
Ingratiating warmth is a prerequisite of the combination, too,
as the Duettino of 1802 exemplifies and though this work
is in two movements and for amateurs it doesn’t stint
on charm. The bigger and bolder Duo Concertant of 1811
is a match for the brother work of the same year though its
opening movement is a shade more salon-inclining than the Op.73.
Dussek’s finales can always be relied upon to go con
brio, as here. The Duetto Op.26 was a product of
the composer’s London years. He exploits, as does Egarr
(to the max, indeed), some thunderous unison opportunities.
Ebullience once again is writ large, though his Rondo
finale is not quite as outgoing as the later Parisian models.
To end the recital there is a charming Introduction and Waltz
by Dussek’s wife, Sophia Corri.
This fine recording has been well captured in the Waalse Kerk,
Amsterdam, which provides warm sonics without any cloying reverberation
to blunt the music-making.