Christophorus, the adventurous German record label are to be congratulated
for making available many recordings from lesser-known composers.
This release of two rare and attractive scores, one orchestral
and one concertante, from Carl Czerny is one such. It seems that
these 1996 recordings were originally available on the Signum
label. The majority of Czerny’s scores do not have composition
dates and I have not been able to establish dates for these two
is represented in the record catalogues today mainly for his
piano scores, however, there are a few recordings of works from
other genres. My favourite of the Czerny releases is a disc
of chamber music recorded at Bad Arolsen in 1994. The Nonet
for cor anglais, clarinet, bassoon, 2 violins, viola, cello,
double bass and piano (1850) and the Grande Sérénade Concertante
for piano, clarinet, French horn and cello, Op. 126 (1827) performed
by Consortium Classicum and pianist Claudius Tanski on the label
Musikproduktion Dabringhaus und Grimm (see review).
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 as
a scholastic composer continues to be associated with the awful
memories of ‘Easy and Progressive Exercises’ that struck dread
into the hearts of piano students. Today his value and considerable
legacy to piano teaching cannot be overestimated. However, perhaps
owing to Czerny’s excess of production, his prowess as a creative
composer is often overlooked.
died in Vienna in 1791 and Carl Czerny was born there in the
same year. A child prodigy on the piano the nine year old Czerny
gave his first public performance in his home town playing Mozart's
Piano Concerto in C minor, K.491. He was extremely well
connected and made the acquaintance of luminaries such as Hummel,
Salieri, Chopin, Beethoven and Clementi as a young man. As Peter
Rummenhöller points out in the accompanying essay:
position as a pupil of Beethoven and teacher of Franz Liszt
certainly makes Czerny a central figure in music.”
Czerny and Beethoven are inextricably linked and the great composer’s
influence over Czerny was immeasurable. Beethoven chose Czerny
as his pupil to give the first Vienna performance of the Piano
Concerto No.5 in E-Flat Major ‘Emperor’, Op.73 in 1812.
He 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. For all Beethoven’s undoubted influence,
in the two scores presented on this disc, I predominantly and
consistently hear a fusion of the Classical sound world of Haydn
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 today. I had to smile when I saw that Czerny
had made arrangements of the Rossini operas Semiramide
and William Tell for eight pianofortes, four hands each.
As a guide Wikipedia have a Czerny
‘works-list’ that contains 861 opus numbers.
a very large number of the non-academic works have gone out
of print or were never published at all; works that are now
largely forgotten by history. Perhaps Czerny’s over-production
diluted his creative powers and consequently a host of his lesser
quality works have led the high calibre ones into undeserved
Concerto for Four-Handed Piano and Orchestra in C major,
Op. 153 is scored for the unusual grouping of two performers
playing at the same piano keyboard. 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 Concerto, it is said, contains
several reminiscences, perhaps superficial, of Beethoven especially
the fourth and fifth Piano Concertos. There are
clearly parallels to the Triple Concerto, sharing the key
of C major, the Rondo Alla Pollacca movement and the overall
abundant strength and virtuosity.
attractive opening movement of Czerny’s brilliant Four-Handed
Piano Concerto marked Allegro con brio is given an
interpretation by soloists Liu Xiao Ming and Horst Gobel that
is often fiery and frequently uplifting. I was struck by some
of the calmer episodes, such as at 3:42-4:57 that have a strong
Mozartian feel. In the hands of the talented duo the Adagio
espressivo comes across as a dignified and mainly reflective.
I enjoyed the Finale: marked Rondo alla Polacca played
with vivacity and vigour by Liu Xiao Ming and Horst Gobel. There
are a couple of sombre sections that provide only a short-lived
soberness from the movement’s mainly jovial good humour.
in four movements with a similar classical design to Haydn’s
London Symphonies, Czerny’s Symphony No. 2 in D major,
Op. 781 is said in the booklet essay to convey a spirit
of expression in the nature of Beethoven and Clementi. To my
ears, however, the spirit of Haydn and Mozart predominate.
extended opening movement marked Andante maestoso ma con moto
has a serious intent that seems to be conveying a courtly
grandeur with a generally unrelenting forward momentum. The lengthy
Andantino grazioso un poco moto is eloquent and somewhat
reserved containing a graceful character of the dance. Pleasingly
witty the Scherzo marked Moto vivace is full of
life. I loved the subtle changes of rhythm that adds to the generally
whimsical mood of the movement. The Finale an Allegro
vivace provides a striking contrast between a restrained air
of stateliness set against an ebullient abandon with effervescent
Nikos Athinaos and the Brandenburgisches Staasorchester from
Frankfurt hold both scores cleanly together in cogent and well
is good to have these two attractive Czerny scores back in the
record catalogue. I am reminded that Czerny is not just a composer
of instructional scores for the piano student but a composer
who can entertain and often delight.