Saturday, 27 December 2014

Corri and Dussek

Jan Ladislav Dussek (February 12, 1760 – March 20, 1812) was a Czech composer and pianist. He was an important representative of Czech music abroad in the second half of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century.

Dussek was one of the first piano virtuosi to travel widely throughout Europe. He performed at courts and concert venues from London to Saint Petersburg to Milan and was celebrated for his technical prowess. During a nearly ten-year stay in London, he was instrumental in extending the size of the pianoforte and was the recipient of one of John Broadwood's first 6-foot pianos. Harold Schonberg wrote that he was the first pianist to sit at the piano with his profile to the audience, earning him the appellation "le beau visage." All subsequent pianists have sat on stage in this manner. He was one of the best-regarded pianists in Europe before Beethoven's rise to prominence.

In the spring of 1791, Dussek appeared in a series of concerts, a number of which featured Sophia, the young daughter of music publisher Domenico Corri. In a concert on June 15 that year, the pair played a piano duet together; they were married in September 1792. Sophia Corri was a singer, pianist, and harpist who became famous in own right. They had a daughter, Olivia, but the marriage was not happy, involving a series of affairs by both parties.

Some of the concerts in 1791 and 1792 featured both Dussek and Joseph Haydn;

Also, in 1792 Dussek embarked on a music publishing venture with Sophia's father Domenico. It is this collaboration which holds most interest for students of the dances of this period as a considerable amount of the firm's output was dance music and guidance on dance figures under such titles as "For the year 1797 twenty-four new country dances with their proper figures for the harp, piano forte and violin as performed at the Prince of Wales’s and other grand balls and assemblies humbly dedicated to the nobility and gentry subscribers to Willis’s rooms, Festino etc"

From adverts in the Bath papers, we learn that Dussek and his wife came to Bath to perform in 1793 and were resident for a time at number 52 New King Street.

The Corri Dussek company while successful at first fared poorly in later years, and the circumstances of its failure spurred Dussek to leave London in 1799 to go to Germany and leaving Corri in debtors' prison.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

The Nude Dance of 1803

Figures as suggested in Astor’s Twenty four Country Dances for the Year 1803 with proper Tunes and Directions to each Dance, etc. by George Astor

1st Cu: set to the 2d Lady & not turn the same with 2d Gent lead down the middle up again & cast off

The rather surprising title is probably a joking reference to contemporary fashions. Modern developments in spinning techniques had made fine woven cotton and muslin fabrics widely and cheaply available. With these fine fabrics, ball gowns could be virtually transparent and many fashionable ladies abandoned modesty for fashion. At the end of 1799, The Time ridiculed such fashion trends.

'If the present fashion for nudity continues its career, the Milliners must give way to the carvers, and the most elegant fig-leaves will be all the mode.'

George Astor was a woodwind instrument maker born in Germany who immigrated to London around 1778 and set up in business as an instrument maker, piano dealer, and music seller. He Traded as George Astor & Co initially at Holywell Street in 1779 as a woodwind instrument maker moving to 26 Wych Street and from 1796 at 79 Cornhill.  Astor referred to himself in the 1790’s as “manufacturer of grand and small piano fortes” but he was not a maker but sold instruments made by John Geib and others under his own name. He also sold musical instruments to the military.  In 1801 the partners with George Astor were George Horwood and Benjamin Banks. George died in 1813,  

An Astor and Horwood Clarinet 

Monday, 8 December 2014

Oliver Goldsmith - The Vicar of Wakefield from the 1760s

"Moses was therefore dispatched to borrow a couple of chairs; and as we were in want of ladies to make up a set at country dances, the two gentlemen went with him in quest of a couple of partners. Chairs and partners were soon provided. The gentlemen returned with my neighbour Flamborough's rosy daughters, flaunting with red top-knots, but an unlucky circumstance was not adverted to; though the Miss Flamboroughs were reckoned the very best dancers in the parish, and understood the jig and the round-about to perfection; yet they were totally unacquainted with country dances.' This at first discomposed us: however, after a little shoving and dragging, they at last went merrily on. Our music consisted of two fiddles, with a pipe and tabor. The moon shone bright, Mr Thornhill and my eldest daughter led up the ball, to the great delight of the spectators; for the neighbours hearing what was goingforward, came flocking about us. My girl moved with so much grace and vivacity, that my wife could not avoid discovering the pride of her heart, by assuring me, that though the little chit did it so cleverly, all the steps were stolen from herself. The ladies of the town strove hard to be equally easy, but without success. They swam, sprawled, languished, and frisked; but all would not do: the gazers indeed owned that it was fine; but neighbour Flamborough observed, that Miss Livy's feet seemed as pat to the music as its echo. After the dance had continued about an hour, the two ladies, who were apprehensive of catching cold, moved to break up the ball. One of them, I thought, expressed her sentiments upon this occasion in a very coarse manner, when she observed, that by the living jingo, she was all of a muck of sweat. "

1766 edition