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Carl CZERNY (1791-1857)
Piano Sonatas - Volume 1
CD 1 [71:05]
Sonata No.9 in B minor Op.145 (1827) [33:26]
Sonata No.8 in E flat major Op.144 (1827) [32:19]
Nocturne in E flat major Op.647 (c.1840) [5:17]
CD 2 [79:51]
Sonata No.5 in E major Op.76 (1824) [29:07]
Sonata No.6 in D minor Op.124 (1827) [50:41]
Martin Jones (piano)
rec. Wyastone, Monmouth, December 2007 and June 2008  
NIMBUS NI 5832-33 [71:05 + 79:51]

Experience Classicsonline


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 Nocturne.

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.

Jonathan Woolf  


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