MDG are a most adventurous record label and are to be
congratulated for making available many pieces from lesser-known
composers. This release of two rare and attractive chamber scores
from the Vienna-born composer Carl Czerny is one such example.
The release is marked volume 1, so more such recordings from
Czerny seem likely.
The MDG website carries the following information “The
series debuts with the world premiere recordings of two important
works by Carl Czerny, pupil of Beethoven and teacher of Liszt.
Joining the acclaimed Consortium Classicum ensemble is the young
pianist Claudius Tanski, whose MDG recordings have won critical
acclaim.” From the recording date of 1994 I’m not sure where
the recordings have been for eleven years. However there is
now another recording of the Grande Sérénade Concertante,
Op. 126 available in the catalogue, on the Meridian label CDE
Czerny’s name, even during his own lifetime, became known
to the public more as a pedagogue than as a composer worthy
of serious consideration. Little has changed up to the present
day as his reputation is associated with dreadful memories of
piano lessons even though his value and considerable legacy
to piano teaching cannot be overestimated.
A child prodigy on the piano, Czerny as a nine year old,
gave his first public performance in Vienna playing Mozart's
Piano Concerto in C minor, K.491. The extremely well
connected Czerny met the acquaintance of Hummel, Chopin, Beethoven
and Clementi as a young man. In later years he became highly
regarded by composers of the stature of Liszt and Beethoven
who both played and encouraged him in his compositional endeavours.
Beethoven influence was immeasurable. He chose Czerny as his
pupil to give the first Vienna performance of the Piano Concerto
No. 5 in 1812. Czerny also gave weekly concerts at his home
that he devoted exclusively to Beethoven’s piano music. Many
of these events were attended by Beethoven himself.
The prolific Czerny composed an astonishing thousand
works in almost every sacred and secular genre. In particular
his numerous technical studies and exercises, continue to be
widely used by piano students around the world. Sadly a very
large number of his non-scholastic works have gone out of print
or were never published at all and have been largely forgotten
by history. Perhaps Czerny’s over-production diluted his creative
powers; consequently a host of his lesser quality works have
led the high calibre ones into undeserved obscurity.
Housed in the Vienna City Library the Nonet
for piano, winds and strings, from 1850 is a work of classical
form and expression and is really a concerto for piano and small
orchestra. The booklet incorrectly describes the instrumentation
as cor anglais clarinet, bassoon, horn, two violins, viola,
cello, double bass and piano, which is ten instruments, but
there is no horn part. Aside from the predominant piano the
instrumentation is related to Schubert’s Octet D.803
and Beethoven’s Septet op. 20 with the exception that
Czerny employs a cor anglais instead of the oboe and horn. The
piano is almost constantly in action throughout the work and
the part is lengthier than that of many a typical piano concerto
yet blends in reasonably well with the other eight instruments.
The opening movement allegro maestoso is lengthy
at nearly thirteen minutes and is a mixture of concerto and
sonata. It is hard to focus on anything other than Claudius
Tanski’s extrovert and exciting piano part. The calming and
gentle second movement andante is a sort of varied song
with a dramatic middle section in which Consortium Classicum
provide a lightness of touch with appropriate sensitivity. Harmonically
the movement gravitates towards the Romantic style and it is
good to hear instruments other than the piano participating
so productively to which Consortium Classicum respond admirably.
The players of Consortium Classicum are intense and full-blooded
in the dramatic and inventive scherzo with its contrastingly
lyrical central trio section. The piano intones a song reminiscent
of Schubert’s Trout Quintet and some Viennese elements
can be detected, especially in the extended passage for violin.
The finale is preceded by an unusual introduction-andante
that features the wind-piano and string-piano dialogue. In the
allegretto vivace section there is a mixture of the rondo
and sonata forms. This ensemble have much to offer in
the closing movement that contains considerable technical challenges
for the piano in which Claudius Tanski proves more than equal
to the task.
The Grande Sérénade Concertante, op. 126 contains
the colourful combination of piano, clarinet, horn and cello.
This extraordinary and exciting published score was composed
in 1827 and the unusual choice of instrumentation demonstrates
that Czerny was going his own independent way to obtain original
The piano part predominates but is integrated more than
in the Nonet. It never swamps the other instruments that are
provided with a reasonable share of material. Czerny’s writing
ensures that each of the four players is faced with technical
demands of the highest order.
Czerny wrote about his ability to play by heart and with
complete accuracy everything that Beethoven and many other composers
wrote for the piano. In view of this it is not surprising that
the Grande Sérénade Concertante contains several reminiscences
of Beethoven especially of the Fourth and Fifth Piano
Concertos. There is also a reference to Schubert’s Variations
for flute and piano op.160.
The demands of the twelve minute long set of theme and
variations for each instrument is handled with intelligence
and fluency. The players display a subtle control in the peaceful
and delightful adagio that provides a short yet welcome
respite from what has gone before. The polished playing is beautifully
balanced in the allegro vivace con fuoco closing movement.
Throughout the score it is difficult not to acknowledge Tanski’s
superbly stylish and radiant playing. He makes an outstanding
This is a well recorded release from MDG Gold that will
delight chamber music lovers.