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Carl Czerny

Carl Czerny

Carl Czerny was born in Vienna to a family of Czech origin. His father Václav Černý came to Vienna from Nymburk, Bohemia and Carl himself didn't speak German until the age of 10. He was taught piano by his father before taking lessons from Johann Nepomuk Hummel, Antonio Salieri, and Ludwig van Beethoven. Carl Czerny also attended courses which Muzio Clementi held in Paris, Vienna, St. Petersburg, Berlin, Prague, Rome and Milan. Carl Czerny was a child prodigy, making his first appearance in public in 1800 playing a Mozart piano concerto. Later, he gave the Vienna premiere of Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 5 "Emperor" in 1812. Czerny quickly took to teaching and by the age of fifteen, he was already a sought after instructor. His most famous student was Franz Liszt, who dedicated his twelve Transcendental Etudes to Czerny and also involved him in the collaborative work Hexaméron (the fifth variation on Bellini's theme is his). His other notable students included Sigismond Thalberg, Stephen Heller, Alfred Jaëll, Teodor Leszetycki, Theodor Kullak, Theodor Döhler, and Anne Caroline de Belleville Czerny composed a very large number of pieces (up to Op. 861), including a number of Masses and Requiems, and a large number of symphonies, concertos, sonatas and string quartets. None of these pieces are played often today, however, and he is known as a composer almost exclusively because of the large number of didactic piano pieces he wrote, many of which are still used today, such as The School of Velocity and The Art of Finger Dexterity. He was one of the first composers to use étude ("study") for a title. On a minor note, he was one of 50 composers who each wrote a Variation on a theme of Anton Diabelli for Part II of the Vaterländischer Künstlerverein (published 1824). He also wrote a coda to round out the collection. Part I was devoted to the 33 variations supplied by Beethoven, which have gained an independent identity as his Diabelli Variations, Op. 120. Czerny's published compositions number nearly 1,000 and include arrangements for eight pianos, four hands each, of two overtures of Gioachino Rossini. He also left an essay on performing the piano sonatas of Beethoven. He published an autobiographical sketch, Erinnerungen aus meinem Leben (1842; “Memories from My Life”). Czerny died in Vienna at the age of 66. Signum Records recently issued at least three CD recordings of Czerny's symphonies and concerti, including a concerto for piano four hands in C major. In fact, the view of Czerny as primarily a composer of didactic works is being challenged, as can be seen in the review cited below of a Sony Classical CD of some of Czerny's four-hand works.

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