Kyunghee Kim-Sutre | Adeste Fideles (With Variations for the Harp in B-Flat Major)

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Classical: Classical era Kids/Family: Children's Storytelling Moods: Instrumental
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Adeste Fideles (With Variations for the Harp in B-Flat Major)

by Kyunghee Kim-Sutre

A famous Christmas Carol, Adeste Fideles (O Come, All Ye Faithful), with Variations for the Harp composed by Sophia Dussek in 1827, dedicated to Miss May. World Premiere Recording
Genre: Classical: Classical era
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1. Adeste Fideles (With Variations for the Harp in B-Flat Major)
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Album Notes
Sophia Corri (Dussek) was also born into a musician family. Domenico Corri (1746-1825), her father, was a violinist, harpsichordist, singer, and composer in the theaters of Rome. His wife was also a talented singer (and one of his students). Domenico’s meeting with historian Charles Burney (1726-1814) led to an invitation for both of them to come conduct and perform first in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1770 and later moving to London in 1790 where both he and his wife performed on subscription concert series and at venues like the Hanover Square Rooms. While it was expected that a middle or upper class young woman had some competency at either the harp or the piano as part of her education, Sophia followed in her parents’ footsteps and sung and played piano and harp at a professional level, debuting at the Salomon concerts in 1791 under the direction of Joseph Haydn (1732-1809). She also copied her parents’ example on August 31, 1792, and married her piano teacher and her father’s new business partner: Jan Ladislav Dussek.

For most female musicians marriage signaled the end of a woman’s public performing career. There was a strong association with femininity and amateurism, especially with women playing instruments such as piano, harp, keyboard, and guitar. It was also expected that once married, a woman directed her musical talents exclusively toward the home and family. In fact, it was the ease of playing the single-action harp that popularized the instrument among upper-class women, as the new pedal action encouraged its widespread use among amateurs. Even stronger was the expectation that composing music belonged to the realm of men, with relatively few women writing, let alone publishing, their own works. If women did compose, it was expected that they would restrict their efforts to genres suitable for a domestic context, namely chamber music.

It is against this backdrop that Sophia Dussek’s post-marriage performing and composing career is quite remarkable for the time, even for a woman born and married into a musical family. Rather than signal the end of her musical career, Sophia’s fame as a singer and harpist only grew over the next decade. As a husband-and-wife musician couple, Jan and Sophia often performed on concerts together, showcasing not only Jan’s piano virtuosity, but Sophia’s singing and harp playing as well. The reprinted program shown here from 1793, detailing a concert put on by the Dusseks, gives an idea of the variety of music they would perform on a single concert. Pieces by Haydn and George Frideric Handel (1685-1759) were featured alongside original compositions by Jan. The harp-piano duo was a common late eighteenth-century form of chamber music, and it was the perfect scoring for the Dussek duo. Sometimes Sophia and Jan would play compositions together on the piano for four hands. While it was quite acceptable for a man and woman to play music together in the home, the concert display of it was much more unusual and quite rare. Through Sophia and Jan performing together on the concert stage, they were taking an intimate, domestic form of music-making and making it public by putting it on the concert stage. Jan’s performance, as a man and head of his household, socially legitimized his wife’s continued career.

Additionally, the fact that both of Sophia’s parents were musicians who put on private salon concerts for the elite gave her an intimate platform on which to display her own virtuosity, again through the sanctioned legitimacy of a male figure, this time her father. This negotiation between the domestic and professional sphere enabled Sophia to continue to build her performance career and garner fame throughout London. She would later go on to help introduce Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s (1756-1791) music to London, singing one of the solo parts in the Requiem at Covent Garden in 1801.

@Lindsey Strand-Polyak



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