About this Recording
8.573425 - CZERNY, C: Organ Music - Prelude and Fugue in A Minor / 20 Short Voluntaries / 12 Introductory or Intermediate Voluntaries (Quinn)

Carl Czerny (1791–1857)
Organ Music


Carl Czerny’s father, Wenzel, was a native of Nimburg in Bohemia, born in 1752. He served as a chorister at a Benedictine monastery near Prague until, at the age of seventeen, his voice broke. Family poverty led him to the army and fifteen years’ service in the Artillery, followed, in 1784, by a period as a piano teacher in Brno. His marriage led to a move to Vienna where he taught music, working also as a piano repairer. His only son, Carl, was born in Vienna in 1791, in time for the family to move to Poland, where Wenzel Czerny was employed as a piano teacher in the house of a member of the nobility. Four years later they returned to Vienna, where Wenzel Czerny resumed his earlier occupations.

Carl Czerny owed much to his father, who trained him as a pianist and musician, concentrating particularly on the works of Bach, Mozart and Clementi. At the age of nine he played for Beethoven, who was happy to accept him as a pupil, his lessons relying in good part on Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach’s essay on keyboard-playing, the Versuch über die wahre Art das Clavier zu spielen. In spite of the irregularity of these lessons, Czerny enjoyed Beethoven’s favour and found a continuing source of inspiration in Beethoven’s music, which remained at the heart of his own repertoire as a performer. Attempts to embark on an early career as an infant prodigy, a travelling virtuoso, were eventually abandoned, partly owing to the disturbed political and social events of the time and partly because, as Czerny later pointed out, of his lack of brilliance and showmanship, the element of charlatanry that seemed a necessary concomitant of such a career. With his careful father’s approval, he settled in Vienna primarily as a piano teacher, with pupils that over the years included the boy Liszt, who passed on Czerny’s teaching to a generation of virtuosi, and they, in turn, to their pupils. Impressed as he was by the performance style of Mozart, heard through Mozart’s pupil Hummel, Czerny nevertheless became a leading exponent of the piano music of Beethoven, with its demands for a legato style suited to the newer forms of pianoforte now available. His pedagogical works had and continue to have wide currency. While his principal works were in the form of exercises and studies, of which he wrote a very large number, his other piano music consists of Sonatas and Sonatinas, with various medleys, variations and other shorter pieces. He wrote music for piano duet, and for up to six players, with many arrangements and transcriptions, including a number of works by Mozart, Beethoven, Auber, and editions of major composers, including Donizetti. The extent of his work as a composer is reflected in well over 800 opus numbers.

In 1836 Czerny gave up teaching, devoting himself thereafter largely to composition. In 1837 he visited England, where he played at Kensington Palace for the future Queen Victoria. It was either in England or on the Continent that Czerny met the English music publisher Robert Cocks, who established a business relationship with Czerny. Cocks, who passed on his prolific publishing business to his sons, before it was bought by Augener, brought out a number of works by Czerny, and was responsible for English editions of Czerny’s organ music. It was Cocks who published in London in 1840–41 Czerny’s Preludio e Fuga per Organo e Pedale obbligato, dedicated to Queen Victoria’s organist at St George’s Chapel, Windsor, George Elvey, who was knighted in 1871.¹ The Prelude and Fugue in A minor, Op. 607, had already been published in Meissen by F.W. Goedsche in 1838 and about the same time in Paris by Richault. Czerny’s Six Preludes and Fugues, Op. 603, were also published by Cocks in 1840–41.

English organ-building had undergone various changes, particularly through the work of William Hill and Henry John Gauntlett, between 1830 and 1850, aiming to develop the capacity of English instruments along the lines of the organs found in Germany. It was in a measure through Mendelssohn’s performance of his own and J.S. Bach’s organ music during his visit of 1829 that the need had become apparent for a pedal-board of adequate range and potential. Czerny’s Prelude to Op. 607 is marked Andante maestoso, with the only other direction Full Organ. The Fugue, marked Moderato, has two subjects, introduced first on the manuals, before the delayed entry of the pedals in augmentation. The whole work reveals Czerny’s debt to Bach and his mastery of contrapuntal technique.

The organ Voluntary came to be a distinct element of church organ repertoire, whether to introduce and close a service, or to fill gaps in the liturgy. It became a particular feature of church music in English-speaking countries, losing an earlier association with fugue and with multi-movement works. Czerny’s Twelve Introductory or Intermediate Voluntaries, Op. 627, were dedicated to the Bath organist James Windsor and were published by Cocks in 1841, with a German edition for the organ, piano or physharmonika, a German form of harmonium, issued by Bretkopf & Härtel in the same year, followed by a Dutch edition in the 1850s. The Twenty Short Voluntaries for Organ with Obbligato Pedal, Op. 698 were published by Cocks in the same year, with a dedication to the London organist William Crathern.

Twenty Short Voluntaries, apparently intended specifically for the English market and with an obbligato pedal part, offer a series of short pieces well adapted to Anglican liturgical practice of the time, varying in mood from the quietly meditative to the triumphant, avoiding the difficulties of remoter keys and varied methods of tuning. The set includes shorter pieces, such as Nos. 11–14 and No. 16, a distinctly practical consideration.

The Twelve Introductory or Intermediate Voluntaries, Op. 627, are slightly more substantial, occasionally contrapuntal, and printed on two staves rather than three, allowing for performance on an instrument without a pedal board. The sixth Voluntary makes use of the national anthem, God Save the Queen, and the ninth finds a place for Gott erhalte den Kaiser, Haydn’s anthem, a theme that Princess Victoria’s mother had given Czerny as a subject for improvisation when he played for them at Kensington Palace.

Keith Anderson

¹ For fuller information on Czerny’s organ music and his English publisher see: Iain Quinn, Carl Czerny: Preludes and Fugues for Organ, and Carl Czerny: Voluntaries for Organ, A-R Editions Inc., Middleton, Wisconsin, 2011.

Close the window