Carl CZERNY (1791-1857)
The Sonatas for Solo Piano - vol.3
Piano Sonata no.10 in B flat, op.268 (1831) [29:20]
Piano Sonata no.3 in F minor, op.57 (1824) [31:26]
Piano Sonata no.4 in G, op.65 (1824) [29:29]
Piano Sonatina in G, op.251 (c.1830) [14:45]
Rondino in E flat on an Original Theme, 'Les Jours Passés', op.42 (1823) [11:04]
Gran Capriccio in C minor, op.172 (c.1828) [13:40]
Andante and Allegro [6:37]
Romance, op.755 no.13 [2:46]
Capriccio à la Fuga, op.89 [4:59]
Martin Jones (piano)
rec. Wyastone, Monmouth, Wales, June 2010; June 2008 [op.172]; December 2009 [opp.57,65]. DDD
NIMBUS NI 5872/3 [75:23 + 68:56]
This is the third and final two-disc volume in Martin Jones and Nimbus's valuable Czerny survey. It is pretty much in every way an excellent survey of the piano sonatas of this scandalously neglected Czech-Austrian composer. Previous volumes have been warmly received - see reviews here and here.
Note that Nimbus are not claiming the 'complete' piano sonatas - there are still two or three unpublished works awaiting discovery, as well as six sonatas for piano four hands, twenty-six more sonatinas for solo piano (a further one was recorded for volume 2), and eight sonatinas for piano four hands. And if it seems from that that Czerny was a Chopin-style piano specialist, well, he was indeed, but given that he wrote more than ten times the amount of music Chopin did, he was still able to find time for seven symphonies, six piano concertos and over 300 choral works. This Nimbus series is only the beginning.
It will, nevertheless, be a long haul before Czerny is remembered for anything other his massive contributions to piano pedagogy, eternalised in his published treatises and exercises, still familiar today to all piano teachers and pupils. But now, with Jones's completed recordings of the published sonatas, the idea no longer stands up that Czerny's genius stopped at teaching, a view promulgated to his discredit by Robert Schumann in the Neue Zeitschrift Für Musik and perpetuated in the 20th century by bigoted criticism basing its precepts on received wisdom or Czerny's countless learner pieces rather than on his major works.
This CD is almost worth the asking price for Calum MacDonald's notes alone. Sixteen sides of detailed description of Czerny's music, so well written in non-technical, yet intelligent language, that the reader cannot wait to get the CD on and start listening for the myriad points of interest that MacDonald explains with obvious appreciation of Czerny's talents.
MacDonald's notes do such a fine job of describing the music in lay terms that there is no need to duplicate them in this review. But it is important to stress that all the music comes from Czerny's maturity and is of commensurately high quality. Despite - or perhaps because of - Czerny's phenomenal technique and encyclopaedic knowledge of the piano, his music does not rely on showy bravura for effect, but no pianist will get very far with the three substantial, significant Sonatas - or the majority of the other pieces, for that matter - without an abundance of virtuosic technique. Jones has shown repeatedly over a long career, and a massive discography, that he has that, and even though he is now into his eighth decade he shows no sign of faltering or slowing down. Indeed, the speed and agility of his fingers are tested repeatedly by Czerny, as in the two-handed crescendo-decrescendo tremolando towards the end of the Rondino in E flat, which has to be heard to be believed.
The three Sonatas are real finds, all quite original in different ways: exciting, intelligent, varied, unpretentious and some of the finest of their period. The B flat Sonata has a stunningly beautiful, intense slow movement that Calum MacDonald suggests might even "stand on its own in a recital programme", and a scherzo third that is "a kind of salon bonbon raised to an almost ridiculous state of virtuosity."
The hugely imaginative finale of the equally compelling F minor Sonata is worthy of Beethoven. Beethoven - Piano Sonata in F minor, op.57? Czerny did give consideration to the opus numbers he assigned to his works, so it is unlikely that the aping of Beethoven's so-called "Appassionata" is coincidental, particularly in light of the fact that Beethoven had been his teacher and was still his friend. The booklet notes have nothing to say on the subject, and in truth the work is nothing like Beethoven's, aside from its dark-hued tonality and general pianistic brilliance.
The Sonatina in G might as well be called a Sonata too - it may be diminutive, but several of Beethoven's masterpieces are as short, and the Sonatina has everything one would expect from a sonata in one concise package. Curiously perhaps, the Gran Capriccio also has the feeling of a sonata, albeit now in three movements. The title is a little misleading, in any case: this full-blooded Romantic work teems with passion and pathos.
Jones's marvellous recital is brought to a fittingly lustrous conclusion with the Sonata in G, yet another showcase for Czerny's seemingly boundless imagination. It overflows in every movement with feeling and breathtaking originality, right down to the amazing light-hearted virtuosity of the finale.
The CD booklet itself is a paragon of clarity and information. One tiny point: in both the track-listing and the notes, the subtitle of the Rondino in E flat is given an additional and ungrammatical 'e' in 'Les Jours Passées', which should be 'Les Jours Passés' ('The Olden Days'). The error may well have been Czerny's or his publishers', but the extra 'e' is still bad French.
Sound quality and general production values are very high. This is a superb addition to Martin Jones's marvellous one-man attempt to record everything unjustly neglected by other pianists.
Collected reviews and contact at reviews.gramma.co.uk
A superb addition to Martin Jones's marvellous one-man attempt to record everything unjustly neglected by other pianists.