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Franciszek Lessel

Franciszek Lessel


Franciszek Lessel, a composer and pianist, was born in Warsaw c. 1780 and died at Piotrków Trybunalski on 26 December 1838. His work is the most complete expression of the classical style in Polish music, as evinced in his choice of genres (symphonies, overtures, variations, quartets, sonatas, masses), the arrangement of cyclic works harmonic practice, instrumentation and forms. He also used counterpoint extensively, in a similar way to Haydn (e.g. finales in fugual form, such as the finale of the D major Quartet No. 6). The influence of Polish music manifests itself in Lessel's creative output first of all in the exploitation of metrorhytmic elements of Polish dances (mainly in the cyclic works) as well as in the use of folk and popular melodies as themes for larger works.

Most of Lessel's works, especially the vocal - instrumental, orchestral and chamber ones, have been preserved in manuscripts, although some have been lost. In the nineteenth century they were published exclusively during the composer's lifetime in Austria, Germany, and sometimes also in England and France. They were also performed exclusively during the composer's lifetime, first of all in Poland were they were highly regarded by the critics. In Lessel's creative output one can distinguish two stages: first - the years he spend in Vienna and immediately after his return to Poland, when most of his instrumental works were composed; secondly - the years after 1815, when Lessel composed mainly religious works and a few for chamber use. The religious works, especially the masses, require large-scale performing forces (solo voices, mixed choir, orchestra and sometimes organ). All the mass items are through - composed and the choirs are handled in a variety of ways. In his piano works one can see the influence of Mozart with traces of improvisatory virtuosity making those compositions brilliant in effect.