This looks set fair to be a valuable corrective
to the partial, more generally held view of Czerny as a composer
of an exhaustive number of pedagogic studies. In the first
volume of a promised complete run we have four sonatas written
between 1824 and 1827 and a single Nocturne, dated provisionally
to around 1840.
Czerny certainly proves to have operated on
a wide canvas – his Sixth sonata, in D minor, lasts over fifty
minutes in Martin Jones’s impressive sounding performance.
It might be as well to start there because here we feel his
striving for a heroic canvas at its most palatial, its most
extended. It was written in the year of Beethoven’s death
and its six movements might be seen as an analogue of the
older man’s own multi-movement writing in the late quartets.
After an opening Adagio sostenuto ed espressivo and
a correspondingly fast capriccio, Czerny unleashes an Allegretto,
a Scherzo and trio, a Bohemian Chorale, a Presto and finally
an Allegro con fuoco. The indications alone give some
idea as to the sweep and drama enshrined in the work. From
a tense almost crepuscular opening we are launched on the
driving excitement of the Capriccio Appassionata; from
there an alternately stately and lyric Scherzo and Trio; and
from there to the heart of the work, a noble unfolding
of the theme and five variations. Extensive, finely laid out
and warmly played this is a particular high point of the two
discs. It shouldn’t be forgotten that, despite his Viennese
birth, and as his name so obviously suggests, Czerny’s first
language was Czech.
The Fifth sonata is a more concise work though
in five movements which again features a penultimate Theme
and variation device. Despite the proximity of Beethoven and
Hummel stylistically – or at least in terms of potential influence
this is the sonata that sounds most completely Schubertian.
Although Schubert is often quoted as one of the strongest
influences on Czerny’s more extended compositions, its influence
is not always direct; here, one feels, it is, and unashamedly
too. The placid theme that launches the variations is a genial
case in point. The whole work in fact though hardly small
scaled is very amiable, though not especially personal.
The Eighth sonata was another product of 1827
and again is cast in six movements, this time ending with
a Fuga. Here we find Czerny serious, even at points rather
gruff, though it’s a gruffness matched by a perky march theme.
The Scherzo sports abrupt injunctions and phrases and alternates
them with a lyric Trio. Even the Adagio is unsettled with
volatile moments. There’s a second Scherzo and – my favourite
and I think the most admirable movement – a forward-looking
and quite complex Rondo before the final fugue. The Eighth
sonata opens in standard sonata form and does rather flirt
with salon sentiment in its not-terribly-serious Adagio; marked
con sentimento to reinforce the point. The agitato
mutterings that later emerge in this movement seem out of
place in respect of the thematic material – but never mind,
there’s a pert and witty Scherzo to enjoy. So too the later
Over a decade ago Anton Kuerti recorded
the First and Third sonatas for Analekta [FL23141] and Daniel
Blumenthal has recorded the first four for Etcetera [KTC2023].
Other than that things have been pretty quiet. So Jones’s
splendid playing, the good Nimbus sound and extensive booklet
notes stamp this out as an important, intelligently conceived
and very rewarding start to the series.