The first volume
in this series was what I called ‘a valuable corrective to the partial, more generally held view of Czerny as a composer of an exhaustive number of pedagogic studies.’ This view is simply reinforced by volume 2 which is, similarly, a two disc set and which offers the same tangible musical rewards as the earlier volume.
There is nothing in the second volume quite as extensive as the massive Sixth Sonata of 1827. Nevertheless we do get four powerfully proportioned sonatas from his maturity played, as before, with powerful eloquence by Martin Jones, one of the most exploratory and energising pianists before the public. The interesting thing about Czerny’s sonatas is that the primary influence is not that of Beethoven. Rather it often sounds to have been Schubert who exerted the greater pull. The opening movement of the Eleventh Sonata, for example, sounds like a Schubert finale, though Brahms’s name is evoked by sleeve note writer Calum MacDonald. The sonata’s slow movement is a romantic soliloquy, its finale a songful, almost Schumannesque one played with warmth and clarity. This sonata dates from 1843. Nearly a quarter of a century earlier his first effort shows similar virtues. It’s a sonata that was admired by Liszt, who dedicated his Transcendental Etudes to Czerny, and is a powerful, exciting and generous spirited five-movement work. In this nourishing piece the central Adagio is hard to overlook, so richly cantabile is it, and so finely played too. Czerny is careful to balance the two faster inner movements; his Prestissimo agitato
is galvanically brisk, whereas the Rondo is altogether more relaxed.
The Second Sonata is not unlike the First in that it too has five movements, one fewer than the Sixth where, one feels, Czerny did at least emulate Beethoven’s multi-movement example in his late string quartets. It is however much more concise than the earlier work. It has a most touching slow movement and an Allegro agitato
that reminds one of the similar movement in the First. Another link comes from Czerny’s schema which is to end both these sonatas with a Fugue. In the First sonata the fugue is linked to earlier material, but not in the Second where the fugue stands, in effect, as a separate entity. The effect is grand, but it does lessen the sense of cumulative tension that the earlier work generated. The Sonatine is more compact still, but belies its name by virtue of its elevated and highly personal powers of reflection. And there are two small pieces. The Chanson sans paroles
is spiced with delicious filigree, whilst the Character Etude
Op.755 is a lissom and decidedly lovely effusion.
There is one remaining volume in this series, and one awaits it with anticipation. Jones’s playing is, quite simply, exemplary and he has been splendidly recorded as well.