Photo: Heikki Tuuli
The Bohemian born composer, Franz Xaver Dussek, did his early musical training at a Jesuit school and from there went to study and work in Prague and Vienna. Most of Dussek’s symphonies were composed in the 1760s and 1770s. This was a time when classical symphonies were very much in fashion. Habsburg courts, aristocrats and wealthy families competed for status, and one way to show off was by putting on fabulous concerts! Many of the Habsburg movers and shakers retained their own orchestras, commissioning new works from their in-house Kapellmeisters or from prominent freelance composers like Dussek.
The Helsinki Baroque Orchestra performs four of Dussek’s symphonies with sparkling energy, and impressive attention to dynamic range, nuance, clarity, and articulation on their 2012 release for the Naxos label.
Period performances of classical symphonies often include a continuo harpsichord; but the fortepiano is also an option. Dussek was himself a sought after fortepianist, and the developing instrument would have been coming into its own during his lifetime. On this recording Aapo Häkkinen directs from the fortepiano. The timber of the instrument mostly blends in, adding to the overall orchestral texture. But every now and then, it comes through in strategic places contributing yet another layer of soundscape to the music.
Bach Harpsichord Concertos
Häkkinen plays a different keyboard instrument with the Helsinki Baroque Orchestra on the other recording we’re featuring today–a 2012 release from the Aeolus label.
Built in 1970, the harpsichord used on this recording was modeled after a 1760 instrument by Johann Adolph Hass. It’s a hefty instrument, the likes of which Häkkinen believes Bach would have used. The instrument has a depth of sound especially in terms of the fundamental bass.
Included on this recording are Bach’s D minor, E major, and G minor harpsichord concertos with orchestra, plus the F major Italian concerto for solo harpsichord.