A Dictionary of Music and Musicians/Duschek, Franz

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DUSCHEK (Dussek), Franz, valued pianoforte teacher, performer, and composer, born Dec. 8, 1736, at Chotiborz in Bohemia. Count von Spork had him educated in the Jesuit's seminary at Königgratz, but after a fall which crippled him for life he gave up other studies and devoted himself to music. His patron sent him first to Prague and then to Vienna, where, under Wagenseil's instruction, he became an excellent pianist. On his return to Prague, he soon had numerous pupils, and exercised a powerful influence on the taste of his time. Reichardt, in his 'Briefe' (i. 116), speaks of him as one of the best pianists of that time (i773), 'who, besides his excellent reading of Bach, possesses a peculiarly pleasing and brilliant style of his own.' Among his best pupils may be numbered L. Kozeluch, Maschek, Wittassek, von Nostiz, and his own wife Josephine. He was also esteemed as a composer of symphonies, quartets, trios, pianoforte concertos, sonatas, Lieder, etc., of which only a small part were published. In his compositions is reflected the gentleness of character which made him universally beloved. He was a kind-hearted man, and all artists, whether his own countrymen or foreigners, were sure of a kind reception at his house. His friendship with Mozart is well known, and it was in his villa and garden near Prague that the great composer put the finishing touches to the score of 'Don Giovanni.' In this very villa Bertramka, at Koschirz near Prague, the present proprietor erected a bust of Mozart, which was solemnly unveiled on June 3, 1876. For further particulars of both husband and wife see Jahn's 'Mozart'; 'Jahrbuch der Tonkunst von Wien und Prag,' 1796; Cramer's 'Magazin für Musik'; and Mozart's Letters, edited by Nohl.

His wife Josephine, a celebrated singer, whose maiden name was Hambacher, was born at Prague 1756, and died there at an advanced age. Her husband taught her music, and she became a good pianist and composer, but above all a fine singer. Her voice was full and round, and according to Reichardt she sang with great expression, especially in recitative. She executed the most difficult bravura passages with ease, had a good portamento, and united grace and expression with force and fire. Mozart's father, however, was of a different opinion, as appears from a letter to his daughter (April 1786), whilst Schiller and Körner have recorded their unfavourable impression of her—the latter specially denying that she had expression (Schiller, 'Briefwechsel mit Körner,' i. pp. 280, 294). Mozart, from his first acquaintance with her in Salzburg in 1777, looked upon her as a true and sympathising friend, and wrote for her (Nov. 3, 1787) at Prague the concert-aria 'Bella mia fiamma' (Köchel, No. 528). She sang at Vienna, Berlin, Weimar, Leipsic. and Dresden, where the Elector had her portrait painted life-size (1787). On her first visit with her husband to Vienna (March and April 1786), they gave no public performance, but were often invited to the houses of the aristocracy, especially to Prince Paar's, where Josephine sang with great success. They witnessed the downfall of the intrigues against the first representation of Mozart's Figaro in Vienna, and it was their partisanship and enthusiastic admiration of the work which prepared the way for its brilliant reception in Prague on Oct. 14, and that of 'Don Giovanni' on Oct. 29, 1787. Beethoven was at Prague early in 96, and wrote his 'Ah perfido!' there; and as it was first sung by Madame Duschek on Nov. 21 of that year, we may infer that he composed it for her. On her second visit to Vienna, Madame Duschek gave a concert at the Jahn'sche Saal (March 29, 1798), at which she herself sang an aria by Danzi and a rondo by Mozart, accompanied by Mozart's questionable friend Stadler, with corno di bassetto obligato. Schuppanzigh played a violin concerto, and Beethoven a pianoforte sonata with accompaniment. Fétis's statement that she came to London in 1800 and died there, arises from a confusion with the wife of Dussek the pianist.

[ C. F. P. ]