Carl Czerny

Carl Czerny (1791-1857) was a pupil of Beethoven and a teacher of Liszt. Born in the year that Mozart died, he is most remembered as the composer of many, many studies and exercises but almost forgotten as a composer of attractive concert pieces. His first public performance, aged 9, was playing Mozart’s concerto in C minor K 491 and Beethoven asked him to give the first performance of his 1st concerto in C major op 15 in 1806 and also of concerto No. 5 in Eb (Emperor) op 73 in 1812. Chopin was a frequent visitor when he visited Vienna in 1829, John Field stayed with him in 1835 and when Clementi came to Vienna in 1810 Czerny met him to learn about his teaching methods, later incorporating them into his own.

Czerny was a prolific composer of over a thousand works, though many manuscripts were unpublished when he died. He is known mostly for his instructional pieces such as studies and exercises - Schumann is responsible for the view that Czerny was a pedagogue who churned out endless uninspired works. However, less familiar is a large quantity of solo and duet material (including a duet concerto), among which are some ‘serious’ pieces worthy of revival.

One early work, from over a thousand published works, is the Grande Sonata Brillante No.1 in C minor op10 for piano duet. It has been brought back to life by David Patrick from archive in the British Library for his Fitzjohn Music Publications www.impulse-music.co.uk. The Sonata is a lengthy one of 4 movements, the 1st is about 11 minutes long and works well as a stand-alone piece. Published in 1821, 3 years before Schubert’s Ab Variations, it is quite Romantic in style in its yearning opening theme and following ideas with ‘brillant’ passagework, surprising key changes and much acrobatic crossing of hands – a wonderful piece to play, hear and see!

Among other works from archive that are in our repertoire is the Ouverture Caractéristique et Brilliant op 54, composed in 1824. The opening melody is referred to throughout and the ‘brilliant’ of the title can be heard in the passagework of both parts, interspersed with more lyrical sections. Also Allegro affetuoso op.137 composed in 1827. A one-movement work, the opening melody gives way to ‘brillant’ passagework, surprising changes of key and harmonic progressions, along with wide-ranging emotion and moods.

His concerto for piano duet is one of the very few that have been written for the ensemble, though the orchestral parts are not easy to find