Frantisek Josef Benedikt Dusik - Matjaz Barbo - ebook

Frantisek Josef Benedikt Dusik ebook

Matjaž Barbo



The book discusses the life of the Czech composer Frantisek Josef Benedikt Dusik (1765-after 1817). Dusik was born into a musical family in Cáslav (Bohemia, today Czech Republik). After stuying in Prague he went to northern Italy. In the last decade of the eighteenth century he stayed in Ljubljana where he married and became one of the most important musical figures. He appeared as a musician in several famous Italian musical theatres of that time, from La Scala in Milan to San Benedetto in Venice. In Ljubljana he regularly appeared in musical theatre, was employed as an organist and regens chori in the cathedral and played a leading role in the Philharmonic Society. He wrote operas, church compositions, instrumental pieces, and foremost, symphonies, which represent the first Slovene works of that genre. The biography introduces readers to an almost forgotten musician, whose fortune led him to be a bandmaster of various Austrian infantry regiments, and at almost the same time a composer who praised Napoleon.

Ebooka przeczytasz w aplikacjach Legimi na:

czytnikach certyfikowanych
przez Legimi

Liczba stron: 294

Odsłuch ebooka (TTS) dostepny w abonamencie „ebooki+audiobooki bez limitu” w aplikacjach Legimi na:






Matjaž Barbo


The Biography of an Eighteenth-Century Composer

Editorial assistance, copy-editing and index: Caroline Herfert, Inge Praxl (Vienna, Austria)English copy-editing: Heather Evans (Kingston, Canada)Translation: Neville Hall (Ljubljana, Slovenia)Layout: Johann Lehner (Vienna, Austria)Cover design: Loys Egg (Vienna, Austria)Printed and bound by: Interpress (Budapest, Hungary)

Published with support of Firmengruppe HOLLITZER andBundesministerium für Wissenschaft und Forschung, Vienna

Translation supported by Slovenian Book Agency

Matjaž Barbo: František Josef Benedikt Dusík: The Biography of an Eighteenth-Century Composer. Wien: Hollitzer Wissenschaftsverlag, 2011 (Specula Spectacula 2)

© Hollitzer Wissenschaftsverlag, Wien,

All rights reserved.

Except for the quotation of short passages for the purposes of criticism and review, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, digital, electronic or mechanical, or by photocopying, recording, or otherwise, or conveyed via the Internet or a Web site without prior written permission of the publisher.

ISBN 978-3-99012-002-6 Hollitzer Wissenschaftsverlag, Wien, pbkISBN 978-3-99012-003-3 Hollitzer Wissenschaftsverlag, Wien, e-book edition























confer (compare, see)




unpublished PhD thesis, Dissertation


in the same place


the same


Köchelverzeichnis (Köchel catalogue)




sine loco (without location)


sine typographus (without printer / publisher)


Translations, if not indicated otherwise, are by the author. Quotations are generally in the original language, followed by an English translation.

Double quotation marks are used for quotations in the continuous text. Single quotation marks indicate translated words or sentences, as well as otherwise highlighted words or phrases.

Hollitzer Wissenschaftsverlag claims no responsibility for the persistence or accuracy of URLs for external or third-party internet websites referred to in this publication, nor does it guarantee that any content on such websites is, or will remain, accurate or appropriate.


Images are reproduced with the permisson of the copyright owners. Credits are indicated in the list of illustrations.


This book offers a survey of the life and work of Czech composer František Josef Benedikt Dusík, who lived at the turn of the nineteenth century. The majority of his work was devoted to music theatre, although he was also active in broader musical life. But his association with opera led him from his native Czech lands to the cities of northern Italy, where he appeared at the most important theatres of his time. For about ten years, he also lived in Ljubljana (Slovenia), where he married and established a family. However, his stormy nature and the turbulence of the Napoleonic Wars drew him back to the life of a musical wanderer. We unfortunately do not know where he passed the last days of his life, but it is possible that he returned once again to Ljubljana prior to his death.

Today Dusík’s works are spread through various archives, which on first view creates the impression of a modest opus, an impression that is further reinforced by the frequent tendency to confuse František Dusík with various other composers with similar names. Only a complete survey of his opus reveals an astonishing compositional tradition, with all of the musical genres opulently represented. However, his legacy extends beyond his compositional work alone. As an important musician he contributed creatively to the transformation of concert life into that which we know today. He thus represents a characteristic type of musician of the nascent concert stage, a musician who built his career as a touring virtuoso and composer. It seems that sometimes researchers do not choose their own topics, but rather the topics themselves find a researcher. I believe that this is the case in my engagement with Dusík. As the genuine, albeit somewhat neglected, beginning of symphonic production in Slovenia, Dusík represented a special research challenge. In addition to this, Dusík’s mysterious human fate, as well as his clearly stormy and unstable character, triggered my imagination and led me to search archives for documents that would sharpen my insight into the depths of his personality.

On concluding my work I must acknowledge that a range of questions that I set myself in my years of dealing with Dusík remain unresolved. I regret in particular that in the archival material I was unable to uncover information about his death. It seems that studying a particular person is unavoidably destined to lead to inadequacy and imperfection, later inevitably joined by the at least partial arbitrariness of our research and interpretation. Nonetheless, this cannot be a justification for mistakes and inconsistencies, for which I take full responsibility myself. While not seeking excuses for such inconsistencies, I can at least explain them with the belief that it is worth publicly presenting the broader findings of my research, as this represents an essential precondition for a more extensive mutual complementing of knowledge, and with this the development of the completeness of our knowledge.

In my research I encountered the benevolent assistance of a range of archives, many of which it would be difficult to thank enough. Amongst them I would like particularly to emphasize the kind assistance of Dr. Drahomíra Novákova from the Municipal Museum in Dusík’s native Čáslav. In addition, I am grateful to Simona Moličnik for her valuable assistance in seeking out relevant sources related to the composer and his time in the Music Collection of Ljubljana’s National and University Library. For their abundant guidance and advice I am also grateful to my colleagues Dr. Aleš Nagode and Dr. Radovan Škrjanc, whose research interests also extend to the topic of this book. Special thanks are due to Neville Hall, who, as a meticulous translator, drew my attention to certain imperfections in the manuscript. Finally, I am especially grateful to the series co-editors Dr. Michael Hüttler and Dr. Hans Ernst Weidinger who accepted the book in the Specula Spectacula series of the Don Juan Archiv Wien.


František Josef Dusík (1765–after 1817) came from the small town of Čáslav in the central Czech lands. His father, Jan Josef1 (17382–1818), was born in Mlázovice u Hořic in the Czech lands, the son of a weigh-master, whose name was also Jan, and his wife, Alžběta Mlázovicka (Elisabeth Mlasovicensis), née Schreiner.3 As the christening register of the local parish states, Jan Josef was christened by the chaplain Jan Procházka on 16 August 1738, and his godfather was Jan Batkovský, a miller.4 At the age of ten years he lost his father, after which his mother sent him to his uncle Johann Wlach, with whom he received his primary school and music education. Jan Josef was a very capable young man and at only sixteen years of age became a primary school teacher, or assistant, in Langenau, where he also taught basso continuo.5 At the age of twenty he moved to Čáslav, a town with a relatively rich musical tradition, where he became a teacher.6

From the very beginning, Jan Josef Dusík attracted attention with his organ playing, as well as with his numerous compositions that sounded from the choir loft of the deanery church of Saints Peter and Paul. Amongst his works, which were also known elsewhere in the Czech lands, are a number of sonatas, pastoral masses and hymns, the latter of which achieved particular popularity. The regens chori (‘choirmaster’) was Martin Kruch, a colleague and friend of Dusík’s who served in the choir loft for almost fifty-seven years, while Dusík himself devoted a full sixty years to the choir loft.7 People apparently travelled from near and far to admire the music making of Čáslav’s musicians.8

Kruch and Dusík were also teachers at the Čáslav school. Kruch taught the first grade and Dusík the second; these were the only two grades the school had at the time. Both men had arrived in Čáslav in the same year, in 1758. On the retirement of the former cantor and teacher Martin Šubrt9 it was Martin Kruch who was first appointed to the position of teacher at the Čáslav primary school, as well as being appointed organist and cantor at the deanery church. At the end of the year, Jan Josef Dusík was employed as Kruch’s assistant in the choir loft and at school, replacing the deceased organist Václav Kovařík. Kruch and Dusík were also granted town privileges in the same year, in 1771.10 According to Gottfried Johann Dlabacž (1758–1820), Jan Josef’s younger brother, Wenzel Dusík (born in 1750 in Mlázovice), also came to Čáslav in 1758. He apparently lived with his older brother, as well as receiving instruction from him. When he had become ‘a good organist and bass singer’ he departed from his brother and earned his living as a musician, first in Olomouc and later in Biteš in Moravia.11

On 9 May 1759, shortly after his arrival in Čáslav, Jan Josef Dusík married a singer from the choir, Veronika, née Štěvetová (Stievetyovou,12 1735–1807), the daughter of a local judge and a talented harpist. They lived in their own house near the Čáslav town church. The house at no. 171 (the former address was Stadtring no. 103) is still standing, preserved in a row of buildings that surround the extraordinarily large and spacious rectangular town square. During the period that the Dusíks lived in the house it was called “Lejtnantovský”, and prior to that it had been known as “Kopřivovský”.13 The house in which the married couple lived with their children, and in which Jan Josef also hosted his school class, was purchased by the Dusíks in 1773. It was evidently difficult for a family with several school-age children to live on the salary of a teacher and organist. Due to various loans from the town council and elsewhere, the house was burdened with a mortgage as early as the 1780s. Thus, burdened with debt, the Dusíks had to sell their home in 1805. The record of the sale is still extant:

Dne 23. ledna 1805 prodali manželé Jan a Veronika dusíkovi svůj vlastní dům […] i s připojeným dvorečkem a zahrádkou a všemi obvyklými právy za sumu 2.750 zl výše jmenovaným manželům Matěji a Nepomuceně Bělohlávkovým.14

(‘On 23 January 1805, the married couple Jan and Veronika Dusík sold their own home […] along with the adjacent courtyard and garden and all of the usual possessions for the sum of 2,750 zl to the above named married couple, Matěj and Nepomucena Belohlavka.’)

We can imagine that this was a cruel blow for seventy-year-old Veronika, and that it perhaps had an impact on the worsening of her health. As there was no money for health care, she died in 1807 at the age of seventy-two.15

Illustration 1: Vincenc Morstadt: Čáslav in 1812, pencil drawing. The drawing shows the main square; on the left of the square stands Dusík’s birth house; in the background is the church of Saints Peter and Paul and the city hall.

Now alone, the life of the elderly Dusík became increasingly difficult, as is witnessed by various letters with requests for support addressed to the Čáslav town administration.16 One of the rare bright points of his later years was a visit he paid to his eldest son, Jan Ladislav, in Paris, where on 17 January 1809 he attended a large concert at the Odéon Theatre. The success of his triumphant son before an enthusiastic Paris audience filled the modest organist and teacher from Čáslav with great joy. After the concert, various artists went to Jan Ladislav’s apartment, where they managed to persuade his elderly father to play one of his own compositions on the piano. Those present apparently received his performance with genuine admiration.17

Jan Josef Dusík taught until 1817, when he became so frail that he was no longer able to work. He died on 24 June the following year in a house bearing the number 158, which was later demolished and in 1864 an evangelical church was erected on the site.18 It was only after Dusík’s death that František Hainovski was appointed as his successor, which is perhaps testimony to the fact that it was not until Dusík passed away that all hope was lost that the much loved musician would nonetheless return to school and to the church’s choir loft.

Illustration 2: Birth house of Dusík on Čáslav’s city square, photograph.

It was at the house on the town square where all of Jan Josef Dusík and his wife’s children were born:19 Jan Ladislav in 1760, Marie Josefa in 1763, František Josef in 1765, Antonie Veronika Kateřina in 1767, Kateřina Veronika Anna Rosalia in 1769, Františka Kateřina in 1770 (died as an infant), Václav Antonín in 1772, and a second Františka Kateřina in 1774.20


Father Jan Josef (1738–1818), mother Veronika, née Štěvetová (1735–1807):

• Jan Ladislav (Johann Ludwig) (Čáslav 9./12.2.1760–20.3.1812 Paris)

+ married Sophia, née Corri (Edinburgh 1775–1847 London)

- daughter Olivia Buckley, née Dusík (1798/99–after 1841)

• Marie Josefa (1763–?)

+ married Josef Žanifl

• František Josef Benedikt (1765–after 1817)

+ married Anna (Maria) Focke

- daughter Gertrud (1788/89?–1814)

• Antonie Veronika Kateřina (1767–?)

• Kateřina Veronika Anna Rosalia (Čáslav 1769–1833 London)

+ married Francesco Cianchettini

- son Pio Cianchettini (London 1799–1851 Cheltenham)

• Františka Kateřina (1770–1771)

• Václav Antonín (1772–?)

• Františka Kateřina (1774–?)

1 In the literature we find both names, although Jan Bušek believes that he was christened Jan. Cf. Jan Bušek: “Rod Dusíkův”, in: Hudební Výchova, 10, 1909, pp. 22-24, here: p. 22.

2 Cf. ibidem. Bušek points out that an incorrect year of birth, 1739, sometimes appears in the literature.

3 Leo Schiffer: Johann Ladislaus Dussek. Seine Sonaten und seine Konzerte. Leipzig: Noske, 1914, p. 1.

4 Bušek: “Rod Dusíkův”, p. 22.

5 Schiffer: Johann Ladislaus Dussek, p. 1.

6 Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart once spent the night in Čáslav, a fact that perhaps much later encouraged director Miloš Forman (b.1932), who was also a native of Čáslav, to make the celebrated film Amadeus.

7 František Škrdle: Jan Jos. Dusík. Čáslavský kantor a varhaník. 1738–1818. Čáslav: Josef Malý, 1993 (orig.: 1934), p. 5.

8 Bušek: “Rod Dusíkův”, p. 22.

9 Škrdle: Jan Jos. Dusík, p. 6.

10 Ibidem, p. 13.

11 Dlabacž: “Dussik, Franz Benedikt”, in: Allgemeines historisches Künstler-Lexikon für Böhmen und zum Theil auch für Mähren und Schlesien. Second reprint: Hildesheim: Georg Olms Verlag, 1998 (orig.: 1815), pp. 345-346.

12 Kutna Hora Archive, Liber testam. 1700–1787, fol. 130; cited in Škrdle: Jan Jos. Dusík, p. 10.

13 Bušek: “Rod Dusíkův”, pp. 22-23.

14 Kutna Hora Archive, Liber contr. X, 57, cited in Škrdle: Jan Jos. Dusík, p. 31.

15 Škrdle: Jan Jos. Dusík, p. 36.

16 Ibidem, illus.

17 R. Anderlová: “J. L. Dusík”, in: Podoubravi, vol. 2, p. 86; cited in Škrdle: Jan Jos. Dusík, p. 38.

18 Škrdle: Jan Jos. Dusík, p. 44.

19 The genealogy of Dusík’s musical family, which originated from the Czech town of Hradec Králové, can be traced from the fifteenth century onwards. Cf. Jitka Snížková: “František Josef Benedikt Dusík”, in: Muzikološki zbornik – Musicological Annual, 26, 1990, pp. 29-35, here: p. 29.

20 Here Sedláček relies on the testimony of Vácslav Setikovski, an inhabitant of the town who was eighty-seven years old at the time and apparently knew the family personally. Cf. August Sedláček: Děje města Čáslavě. Praha: Klaudy, 1874, p. 250, note 383; cf. also Bušek: “Rod Dusíkův”, pp. 22-24, which forms the basis of Škrdle: Jan Jos. Dusík.


František Josef Dusík was born on 22 March 1765. This date is provided by Kliment Čermák (1852–1917), who bases it on extant sources. Čermák himself states that his information is first taken from authentic records in the register of the dean’s office in Čáslav.21 The information about the composer’s birth is accepted as the most reliable by the majority of authors of contemporary biographical presentations of Dusík, which are all in one way or another derived from Čermák’s findings.22 Nonetheless, it is also possible to find completely different information about Dusík’s birth. The oldest lexical sources mention 13 March 1766 as his date of birth.23 In some places, in otherwise precise literature, we also find the date 22 March 1766,24 as well as 13 March 176525 or even 2 March 1765,26 which in some cases can perhaps be attributed simply to a printing error. This confusion even results in a case of two contradictory pieces of information about the composer’s birth being provided in the same monograph.27

In the christening register of the deanery church28 we find the following entry for 1765:

22 Martÿ in Ecclesia Decanali SS. Petri et Pauli Czaeslaviae à Presbytero Wenceslao Knoflitius loci Capellano baptizatus fuit Franciscus Josephus legitimus filius D. Joannis Dussik Organistae Czaeslaviensis liberi uxoris Veronicae natus eadem die. Levans fuit Praenob ac Consultissimus D. Franciscus Bojan Civis et Senator Czaslaviae. Testes D. Josephus Matiegka D. Franciscus Waczek Praenob D. Johanna vidua Leixnerin, et Praen. D. Veronica Skalitzkin Cives Czaeslavienses.29

(‘On 22 March 1765, at the deanery church of Saints Peter and Paul in Čáslav, the local chaplain, Venceslav [Vaclav] Knoflitius, christened František Josef, born on the same day, the legitimate son of Jan Dusík, the Čáslav organist of free status,30 and his wife Veronika. The godfather was the very reverend and wise Mr. František Bojan, citizen and town councillor of Čáslav, and the witnesses were Mr. Josef Matjeka, the very reverend widow Mrs. Johanna Leixner and the very reverend Mrs. Veronika Skalicki, all citizens of Čáslav.’)

Thus the composer was named after his father (Josef) and his godfather at christening (František). In addition to this, in the literature he is often referred to as Benedikt,31 which is apparently a later addition to his name. Čermák is particularly sceptical towards this, citing the fact that nowhere in the Čáslav archives does the name Benedikt appear in connection with the Dusík family.32 Nonetheless, we also find the name Benedikt in sources from the composer’s time, which we can assume were written at least with his consent, if not actually with his own hand. A typical example is the writing of his name in this form in the score of the symphony from the opera Il brutto ossia Roma deliberata (‘The Savage or Rome Delivered’)33, written in Ljubljana in January 1817. From this we can conclude that Dusík, at least later in life, also signed his name as Benedikt.

Illustration 3: Copy of the birth registry from the deanery church in Čáslav.

The confusion surrounding Dusík’s name and date of birth highlights the frequent problems we encounter in studying the period in which the composer lived. The sources that we would ideally refer to are often lost, and the extant documents are not entirely reliable. Sometimes musicians themselves changed their own names, partly in order to succeed more easily in a particular cultural environment.

Thus the elder brother, who established himself on the most important concert stages in Europe at the time – from London to Berlin, St. Petersburg, Vienna, Hamburg and Paris – with the name Jan Ladislav (and also Johann Ludwig), was actually christened as Jan Václav (or Wenceslaus Joannes).34 On the occasion of his marriage in London in 1792, he is recorded in the church register as “John Ladislaus Louis Wenceslaus Dussek”, while in 1802 he signed the album of the Čáslav philosopher Johann Ferdinand Opitz (1741–1812) as “Johannes, Wenceslaus, Ludovicus, Ladislaus Dussek”.35 As one of the first genuine touring piano virtuosi, charming the music world of the time with his popularity, he later changed his surname from Dusík to Dussek, most likely so that the public in France and England could pronounce his name more easily.36 However, this change frequently caused real confusion with regard to his identity and the writing of his name. This is also more or less directly evident in the recognition of the name and compositions of the young František Dusík, particularly due to the extraordinary proliferation of the works of his elder brother in numerous European archives. Not least, his sonatinas are also listed in the music catalogue of Ljubljana’s Philharmonic Society from 1898, in the rubric Schulnoten (‘School music’). Despite being popular and admired, Jan Ladislav ended his life in drunken misery and loneliness.

The surname Dusík or Dussek also appears in the literature with regard to Jan Ladislav’s first wife (he later married again), the singer, pianist, harpist and composer Sophia (Giustina), née Cori (Corri, 1775–1847). As François-Joseph Fétis (1784–1871) reports, she apparently appeared as a pianist in public at only four years of age.37 She married Jan Ladislav in 1792, and their daughter Olivia, whose married name was Buckley (1798/99–after 1841), a composer primarily of harp music, was promoted under the name “O. B. Dussek”.

The younger sister of the two Čáslav musicians, Kateřina Veronika Anna Rosalia (1769–1833), was herself a well-known musician. We know that in 1793 her father Jan Josef asked the city council to issue her a passport to London, where she joined her brother Jan Ladislav, who was living in England at the time.38 She first established herself in London as an excellent singer, and later as a pianist and harpist, as well as writing a number of compositions. There she married the Italian Francesco Cianchettini, who was from Rome. In London at that time he led the well-known publishing house Cianchettini & Sperati, which also published the works of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–1791) and Ludwig van Beethoven (1770–1827), amongst other composers. Some of Kateřina’s works, sometimes also bearing the surname Dusík or Dussek, can be found in certain archives, particularly in England. Her marriage with Cianchettini produced one son, Pio Cianchettini (1799–1851), who as a boy was regarded as being so miraculously talented that he was dubbed the ‘English Mozart’.39 His undeniable talent was often linked with his eldest uncle.40 On the death of Jan Ladislav, the Paris newspapers predicted that with his knowledge the then twelve-year-old pianist and composer would one day completely take the place of J. L. Dusík.41

The confusion surrounding the records and cataloguing of the works of the various Dusíks, or Dusseks, was further exasperated by František Xaver Dušek (Duschek, Duscheck, Dussek, 1731–1799), a well-known composer from Prague and a friend of Mozart’s, who hosted the great composer in his villa Bertramka whenever the latter came to Prague. Dušek wrote a series of works, including a number of symphonies that explicitly demonstrate the symphonic style from the middle of the century. Thus it is very likely that he is, in fact, the author of numerous symphonies otherwise attributed to František Dusík. There is no doubt that the two composers are frequently confused due to their similar Christian names and surnames. The house of the organist and cantor on the Čáslav city square resounded with domestic music making, as is graphically described by the renowned chronicler of European musical life at that time, Charles Burney (1726–1814). In his essay The Present State of Music in Germany, the Netherlands, and United Provinces, which was published in London in 1773 (second edition 1775), he writes:

The organist and cantor, M. Johann Dulsick [sic], and the first violin of the parish church, M. Martin Kruch, who are likewise the two school-masters, gave me all the satisfaction I required. I went into the school, which was full of little children of both sexes, from six to ten or eleven years old, who were reading, writing, playing on violins, hautbois, bassoons, and other instruments. The organist had in a small room of his house four clavichords with little boys practicing on them all: his son of nine years old, was a very good performer.

After this, he attended me to the church, which is but a small one, and played an admirable voluntary on the organ, which is likewise but small, though well-toned; its compass was from C to C, and there were no reed stops; but it had pedals, and an even foot chorus. He played an extempore fugue, upon a new, and pleasing subject, in a very masterly manner; and I think him one of the best performers on the organ, which I heard throughout my journey. He complained of loss of hand, for want of practice, and, that he had too many learners to instruct, in the first rudiments, to be allowed leisure for study, and that he had his house not only full of other people’s children, but his own.42

Coming from the hand of a writer who was undoubtedly a superb connoisseur of musical life in Europe at that time, Burney’s description of Jan Josef Dusík as “one of the best performers on the organ”43 that he had heard during his journey carries particular weight. In addition to this, his praise of the nine-year-old, whom he said “was a very good performer”44 on the clavichord, should also be highlighted. As the Czech musicologist Jitka Snížková (1924–1989) points out, this child was most likely František Josef (although only seven years of age at the time), as the twelve-year-old Jan Ladislav was already studying in Jihlava and thus was no longer living at home.45 In the literature this excerpt is nonetheless frequently associated with the latter, most likely because of the great popularity of Jan Ladislav.

Naturally, František Josef received his first musical training from his father. It was with him that the young František Josef learned the piano, the violin and the cello, so that he “zastupoval často otce ve hře na varhany”46 (‘frequently substituted for his father in performing at the organ’), as August Sedláček (1843–1926) writes. It was most likely František Josef who was the ailing son about whom his father wrote to the town council in a letter requesting financial assistance for medical treatment. In the town archive, a letter is preserved with the following contents:

Dusík Jan žádá o pomoc z toho ohledu, poněvadž on na kurýrování jeho syna, který se od maličkosti při choru muzikálním potřebovati nechal a nyní na fundaci do Žd’áru přijat jest, skoro celou ¼ letní stans vynaložiti musil.47

(‘Dusík Jan requests help since he spent nearly a quarter of his summer salary in healing his son, who from a young age participated as a musician in the choir loft, but is now at the monastery in Žd’ár.’).

Illustration 4: Cistercian monastery Žd’ár nad Sázavou, monastery church, photograph.

At the time, the seventeen-year-old František Josef was teaching at the school in the Cistercian monastery in Žd’ár nad Sázavou, on the border of the Czech lands and Moravia. The monastery was regarded as one of the most important institutions of its kind in this part of the country, not only as a spiritual centre but also as a cultural and educational centre. It was founded as early as the thirteenth century, but enjoyed its most rapid development in the eighteenth century, when it was apparently also attended by František’s older brother, Jan Ladislav, who even considered entering the Cistercian order.48 Only a stone’s throw away from the monastery is one of the most important cultural monuments of the broader region, the architecturally superb Romanic church St. John of Nepomuk, with its unique ramparts. At the time, the monastery undoubtedly represented an exceptional opportunity for schooling the young musician, who had already been trained intensively in church music practice at home.

František Josef later went to Prague, where he studied at the Emauzy Benedictine monastery with the excellent organist and composer Fr. Augustin (Václav) Šenkýř (Schenkirtz, Ssenkyrz, 1736–1796),49 who taught him harmony and counterpoint.50 Šenkýř, originally from Dobruška in the east of the Czech lands, was in his own time regarded as a popular composer primarily of sacred works, which were disseminated through all of the Czech lands and Moravia. According to Jitka Snížková, his compositions were to a large extent marked by an association with folk melody, which may also have had an influence on the aesthetic outlook of the young Dusík. Šenkýř’s creative work could perhaps be categorized within the pastoral stylistic type rusticanus. Emauzy was a monastery with a rich tradition. It was established on the command of Emperor Charles IV (1316–1378), who in 1348 is supposed to have sent eighty Croatian Benedictines to Prague, most likely from the island Pašman. Later, the monastery had an important scriptorium, from which Glagolitic legends emerged, first appearing on the island of Krk and then also in Kiev and Novgorod. The monastery was later nationalised, but after the democratic changes in Czechoslovakia it was again returned to the Benedictines and is thus today one of three active Benedictine monasteries in the Czech Republic. Dusík assisted in the monastery as an organist, while at the same time perfecting his performance skills on the cello and the violin. In addition, Dusík received a broad education, transforming him into a versatile musician, equipped to appear on any kind of musical stage.

After completing his studies with the Benedictines, Dusík entered the service of Countess de Lützow. In his superb musical lexicon, François-Joseph Fétis states that the countess was a former pupil of Dusík’s father and a patron of his family.51 We do not know exactly how long Dusík served the countess, but it is clear that he soon left her service. An opportunity presented itself as he accompanied the countess as her Kapellmeister (maître de chapelle, ‘chapel master’)52 on a journey through Italy.53 Italy opened up a view of the freshest musical currents, while at the same time offering musicians the best possibilities for the most diverse employment. This no doubt represented an enticing challenge for Dusík, and it was a temptation he was unable to resist.

Illustration 5: Portrait of Jan Ladislav Dusík.

Dusík accepted the opportunity with open arms. In Dlabacž’s lexicon, which was published during Dusík’s lifetime, it is written that he found an opportunity to continue his education, during which he gained a familiarity with the majority of the most important Italian artists.54 In addition, he apparently appeared at numerous academies as a violinist, cellist and pianist, and was received with approval wherever he went.55 Dlabacž writes that, amongst other places, he also went to Mortara and Venice, where as a concertmaster in opera theatres he apparently received a large salary.56 Information about his activities in these years is, unfortunately, not very exact or consistent, so we can only approximately follow the story of his life, which in the second half of the 1780s undoubtedly unfolded in the cities of northern Italy, from Mortara through Venice to Milan. Thus in the literature we find that Dusík appeared at the S. Benedetto Theatre in Venice as a concertmaster and accompanist or tutor.57 Robert Eitner (1832–1905) also mentions that he apparently appeared as a Kapellmeister in some regiment in Milan.58 It certainly appears that at the celebrated Milanese theatre La Scala he “hatte auch als Opernkomponist einige Erfolge gehabt” (‘had some success as opera composer’).59 He was undoubtedly in Milan in 1787, where he met with his older brother Jan Ladislav. His brother came to visit him from Paris, where at the time he was enjoying great celebrity as a musician. Jan Ladislav also performed in Milan, showing himself to be a superb performer on the piano and the glass harmonica. During that period, the glass harmonica was a very popular instrument, and it was written for by some of the most important composers, including Mozart and Beethoven. Unfortunately, its currency lasted only for a few decades and then the instrument fell into obscurity. One of the most celebrated virtuosi on the instrument was, in fact, Jan Ladislav, who also composed a number of works for the glass harmonica.60

In Milan, Jan Ladislav enjoyed a stormy fame, which no doubt pleased the talented musician immensely.61 Nonetheless, in 1788 he returned to Paris,62 from where he withdrew at the beginning of 1789 due to the revolutionary fermentation, moving to London, where he lived from 1790 to 1802. Jan Ladislav’s visit to his brother in Milan is also the last attested meeting of the two brothers. Evidently, their paths did not cross again. However, Jan Ladislav did retain contact with his parents and his homeland. In 1802, he left London to perform in Prague, after which he visited his parents in his home town of Čáslav and remained there for several months.63 As already mentioned, in 1809, shortly after the death of his mother, Jan Ladislav was also visited by his father in Paris.

František Josef obviously did not maintain close contact with his family. In the literature we find only one record of his possible return home to Čáslav. Thus Dlabacž mentions that after furthering his studies in Italy for some years

kehrte er als vollkommener Tonkünstler wieder nach Deutschland zurück, und wurde zu Laibach zuerst als Violinist, dann aber als Organist an der Kathedralkirche angestellt. Noch im J. 1790 lebte er in der nämlichen Eigenschaft daselbst, und besuchte noch in selben Jahre seine Eltern in Czaslau, wo er manchen schönen Beweis seiner musikalischen Verwendung zum Trost seiner Freundschaft abgelegt hat.64

(‘as a perfected musician he returned to Germany and became first a violinist and then an organist at the cathedral in Ljubljana. He still held the same position in 1790, and the same year visited his parents in Čáslav, where he left certain excellent proof of his musical employment as solace for his friendship.’)

With this Dlabacž concludes his description of František Josef’s life story. In view of the fact that his lexicon was published in 1815, we can understand that according to the latest information available to him he believed that Dusík was still in Ljubljana (which he mistakenly located in Germany). If it is true that Dusík went to Čáslav in 1790, then his short visit to his birthplace could also probably be connected with his marriage in the same year. It is possible, for instance, that he wanted to present his bride to his parents. However, the letters that Dusík’s wife addressed to the Čáslav town authorities more than two decades later, in which she enquires about her father-in-law, indicate that she possibly did not know him at all. It is difficult to understand why she did not turn to him directly.

Only from Stanislav Klíma do we find the additional recorded fact that prior to his departure to Ljubljana, Dusík worked for some time in Klagenfurt. However, it is not possible to determine on which source the author bases his assertion.65

Despite the deficiencies of the available information, it is clear that Dusík’s youthful period prior to his arrival in Ljubljana was extraordinarily dynamic. His involvement in theatres in the most important musical centres undoubtedly demanded not only great power as a performer but also substantial creative acumen. Fétis wrote that during the period Dusík worked in Mortara, Venice (Teatro S. Benedetto) and Milan (La Scala), he composed as many as eight of his operas.66