About this Recording
8.573998 - CZERNY, C.: Grand Concerto No. 2 / Concertino, Op. 210 / Rondino, Op. 127 (R. Tuck, English Chamber Orchestra, Bonynge)
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Carl Czerny (1791–1857)
Second Grand Concerto in E flat major • Concertino in C major, Op. 210/213 (manuscript Op. 197) • Rondino sur un Thème favori de l’Opéra ‘Le Maçon’ d’Auber, Op. 127

 

Carl Czerny found fame and fortune in 19th-century Vienna by writing fashionable works for the masses, alongside being ideally placed to further the development of technique for the newly emerging piano. Living in a city where piano teachers outnumbered doctors by over three to one, his prodigious volumes of studies were soon placed on every piano, where they largely remain today. By 1928, Wilhelm Fink, writing in the Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung, noted that alongside Rossini, Czerny was without a doubt ‘exceedingly well-liked by a large part of the musical public’.

Czerny was, however, modest by nature, and not prone to self-promotion or exhibition. As a pianist he wanted to play Beethoven sonatas, and the ‘brilliant, calculated charlantry’ he perceived of the then virtuoso was simply not part of his natural demeanour. During his lifetime he was more preoccupied with promoting Beethoven’s music rather than his own, and much of what he classed as his ‘serious’ composition remained largely in the desk drawer, while publishers lapped up his numerous potpourris, fantasies, teaching pieces and studies. Despite the famous anecdote about Czerny working on four different pieces at once, moving from one desk to another as the ink dried, extensive crossings out in manuscripts reveal another side.

Carl Czerny was born in Leopoldstadt, Vienna, in 1791—the year Mozart died. At his christening were the brilliant pianists Abbé Gelinek and Abbé Ferdinandi. Surrounded by music from birth, he was initially taught piano by his father, and first started composing by the age of seven. He soon could play all of Mozart’s piano works, much Clementi and music by Beethoven; first performing in 1800 with Mozart’s Concerto in C minor, K491. The following year he so impressed Beethoven that the master took him on as a pupil for the next three years, and this grew into a lifelong friendship and association of mutual admiration. Beethoven chose Czerny to premiere two of his piano concerti, and such was his pupil’s musical memory that he could play all of Beethoven’s works by heart.

While Beethoven’s belief extended to having Czerny create piano versions of his orchestral works, enabling them to be more widely heard, their close friendship, coupled with Czerny’s tireless promotion, has led to much of our understanding of the master today. On this aspect Brahms wrote to Clara Schumann: ‘Czerny’s great piano school is well worth reading through. In particular what he says about Beethoven and the performance of these works; he was an industrious and attentive pupil’, adding ‘there should be more respect for this excellent man’. As a teacher Czerny taught piano to Beethoven’s nephew Carl, and other pupils included Heller, Thalberg and most famously the young Liszt. Liszt presented Czerny’s music in Paris recitals with much success, while his own É́tudes d’exécution transcendante were appropriately dedicated to his master. Alongside Chopin and Thalberg, Liszt also invited Czerny to contribute to his Hexaméron – Grande variations de bravoure sur le marche des Puritains de Bellini.

Czerny wrote an astonishing amount of music: over a thousand works, which include nine symphonies, piano concerti, string quartets, chamber music and many works for piano. Deeply religious, he also wrote much liturgical music, including cantatas, hymns and eleven Masses. Liszt, despite his great admiration for Czerny’s ‘compositions of importance, beautifully formed, and having the noblest tendency’, also noted in a letter to Otto Jahn in 1852—‘it is a pity that by a too super-abundant productiveness, he has necessarily weakened himself.’ Early editions of The Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians support this contention, stating ‘the host of lesser works have involved the really good ones in undeserved forgetfulness’.

Beyond this aspect, much of Czerny’s ‘serious’ writing for piano was deemed extremely difficult to play, curtailing wide circulation and performance by its very nature. London’s Monthly Magazine from 1824 recounts the ‘wild and almost unplayable music that generally proceeds from Mr Czerny’s pen’, while another reviewer from Harmonicon, 1833, asks who, but ‘moon-struck people’ would submit themselves to Czerny’s gladiatorial writing. Writing in his essay Carl Czerny, Composer, the pianist and Czerny scholar Anton Kuerti points out that even the chamber works can be more difficult to play than a Chopin concerto, and ponders for whom they could have been intended.

For an extended period of his life Czerny would teach throughout the day before devoting the evenings to composition. Yet, despite this workaholic image, he was romantic enough to fall in love, and while he didn’t mix in fashionable circles or hold promotional concerts of his own music, he nevertheless held ‘musical circles’ at his house, where Beethoven was played, often in the composers presence.

Czerny died in 1857, having supported his parents to whom he was always close, and his will considered his domestic staff besides the Society for the Friends of Music, and causes important to him including the Deaf-Mute Institute.

Concertino in C major, Op. 210/213 (manuscript Op. 197) (1829)

Originally given the opus number Op. 197, Czerny’s Concertino was published by its dedicatee, Tobias Haslinger, around 1833. Perhaps surprisingly, Haslinger chose to divide the complete work: the first movement became his Concertino, Op. 210, while the final two movements appeared as Andante and Rondo, Op. 213. Both titles were grouped together in Haslinger’s Der junge Virtuose, a collection of concertante works which included Hummel's Concertino, Op. 73; while the Op. 197 of Czerny’s original manuscript was utilised as Fantaisie élégante on a theme by Auber, a further choice no doubt guaranteed to make money.

In its entirety, the Concertino emerges as a delightful and entertaining concert work. Its charming sonata form first movement gives way to a bewitching and melodious Andante grazioso before the impetuous high jinks of the concluding Rondo, framing a stately yet serene central chorale, take flight.

Second Grand Concerto in E flat major (1812–14)

Czerny was 21 years old when he sat down to write his Grand Concerto in E flat on the 24 February 1812, just 12 days after he had given the Viennese premiere of Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto. While the same choice of key can hardly be coincidental, this element should be viewed more as his point of inspiration: a homage to the great master he so revered, and from whom Czerny later noted came ‘from his side the most cordial goodwill that—a rare case for him—was never clouded by any mood’.

Czerny immediately sets a scene of pastoral grandeur in the Adagio opening, strikingly announced by his other favourite instrument, the horn. The gently undulating motive of the Allegro assai builds, broad and expansive, to a sweeping plateau, while the long second subject seems to never want to end, paving the way towards a stormy development before finally reverting back to the brilliant sunshine which proceeded it. Unusually, he completely eschews a cadenza.

The extended Adagio allows the horn to present its soulful melody first, the piano developing it further before sharing it liberally amongst the soloists in increasingly intricate variations. Brimming with joie de vivre, the lively hunting scene set by the finale, exuberant and skittish by turn, propels the work towards a reassuringly triumphant end.

Unusually, Czerny gives precise dates for each movement. The first was begun on 24 February 1812, and completed on 29 August 1814, the second written from July to 7 September 1814, and the third completed on 24 September 1814.

Rondino sur un Thème favori de l’Opéra ‘Le Maçon’ d’Auber, Op. 127 (1826)

Published in 1826, Czerny’s Rondino appeared the year following the first performance of Auber’s opéra comique La Maçon at the Salle Feydeau in Paris on 3 May 1825. The opera was to be Auber’s first enduring success, and Czerny bases his Rondino on the Ronde—The Round of the Good Worker from Act 1, which was to also find its way into Masonic circles, despite the fact that the opera has nothing to do with Freemasonry. The enchanting theme with its minor counterpart is ideal for the rondo structure, and Czerny welds the material into a highly enjoyable whole, punctuated by short cadenzas and reflective moments of repose—a perfect way for friends to come together in the drawing room of an evening purely for the genuine pleasure to be found in music making.

Rosemary Tuck


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