Franz Xaver Dussek was a prominent Bohemian composer, his name more
correctly written in its native form as František Xaver Dušek.
He is apparently unrelated to the better-known Jan Ladislav Dussek
(1760-1812) and his composer family, which included father Jan (1738-1818),
brother František/Franz (1766-1816), sister Katerina (1769-1833)
and daughter Olivia (?1798 - after 1841).
As if to underscore the scope for confusion, a reviewer of this very
CD, writing for a leading journal that likes to blow its own trumpet,
refers to the composer as "a home wrecker, serial womanizer, shameless
lecher, and the first to turn his piano sideways on the stage "so
that the ladies could admire his handsome profile. … How fitting
was Dussek’s karmic end: he grew morbidly obese, ugly, and depressed,
drank to excess, and was barely able to leave his bed." Poor Franz
Xaver - the disparaging reviewer has confused him with Jan Ladislav!
Franz Xaver is known to have written in the order of forty symphonies,
pace that review a healthy contribution to the 18th century
literature. The four heard here, thought to be fairly early works,
are not quite indispensable masterpieces, yet nor are they negligible
or in any regard forgettable. In fact, they exhibit considerable craft,
and within the well-defined stylistic boundaries of Galant, are as
fresh and vivid as they are elegantly Viennese.
Thus, if this turns out to be the first volume of several from Naxos,
so much the better, especially if performed by the talented, always
enthusiastic Helsinki Baroque Orchestra under their artistic director,
the young Finnish harpsichordist/conductor Aapo Häkkinen. An
unusual but nice touch of his is the decision to direct from the vicinity
of a fortepiano, used sparingly in the absence of a harpsichord continuo.
Sound quality is very good, with just the odd hint of distortion in
the very loudest passages. Allan Badley's notes are as always appreciative,
well written and informative. A running time of 53 minutes is nothing
to get excited about, but Dussek's music and the HBO's musicianship
Collected reviews and contact at artmusicreviews.co.uk
see also reviews by David
McConnell and John