Czerny, Carl

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Czerny, Carl

Czerny, Carl , celebrated Austrian pianist, pedagogue, writer on music, and composer; b. Vienna, Feb. 20, 1791; d. there, July 15, 1857. He was born into a musical family, and began his training at the age of three with his father. At nine, he made his first public appearance as a pianist in Vienna playing Mozart’s C minor Concerto, K.491. When he was ten, he played for Beethoven who agreed to take him on an his pupil. Czerny’s devotion to Beethoven led him to memorize all of his mentor’s piano works. In 1806 he performed Beethoven’s C major Concerto, and in 1812 his Emperor Concerto. However, Czerny opted to forego the career of a virtuoso and instead began to accept pupils when he was only 15. He eventually established himself as one of the foremost piano pedagogues of his day, numbering among his students Dohler, T. Kullak, Jaell, Thalberg, Heller, and Liszt. Although he pursued a demanding teaching schedule, he managed to find the time to compose prolifically. According to his own account, his output included hundreds of scores. In his lifetime, he publ. 861 opus numbers. In addition, he brought out innumerable studies and exercises for piano which remained the bane of students for generations. He also prepared editions of works by J.S. Bach and D. Scarlatti, and numerous arrangements of works by Handel, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Mendelssohn et al. Czerny’s serious works included operas, seven syms., six overtures, six piano concertos, much chamber music, and numerous sacred vocal pieces, including masses, cantatas, and two Te Deum settings. With the exception of his piano sonatas, almost all of his serious music was left in MS. In recent years, recordings of a number of his more ambitious scores have revealed him to be a composer of considerable talent. Indeed, his Sym. No. 1, while owing much to Beethoven, nevertheless is a notable example of his assured handling of symphonic form. His publications included the School of Extemporaneous Performance (2 vols.), Complete Theoretical and Practical Pianoforte School, and School of Practical Composition (3 vols.). He also wrote an autobiography, Erinnerungen aus meinem Leben (MS, 1842; ed. by W. Kolneder, Baden-Baden, 1968; partial Eng. tr. in the Musical Quarterly, July 1956).


H. Steger, Beitrage zu K. C.s Leben und Schaffen (diss., Univ. of Munich, 1924); P. Badura-Skoda, ed., C. C.:Uber den richtigen Vortrag der samtlichen Beethoven’schen Klavierwerke (Vienna, 1963); G. Wehmeyer, C. C. u. d. Einzelhaft am Klavier (Kassel and Zurich, 1983).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire