Honouring the Feb. 21 birthday of Carl Czerny (who made piano practise an endless journey …)

Honouring the Feb. 21 birthday of Carl Czerny (who made piano practise an endless journey …) featured image

Pictured is “The Tremolo” and it is the hardest thing ever written. Okay, minor exaggeration.


Just hearing the name “Carl Czerny” and my heart sinks with Pavlovian dread, at the memory of all the Royal Conservatory of Music studies and piano exercises composed by him I was required to practise for what felt like hours on end. Like with a lot of things that kids dislike – homework, exercise, vegetables, chores, and going to bed at a sensible hour – Czerny wasn’t fun at the time, but upon reflection, one was really glad to have learned his studies.

Born into a musical family and considered a child prodigy, Czerny was part of an incredible musical teaching dynasty. He studied with Beethoven at age 10, and noted Beethoven’s attention to proper fingerings and physical restraint at the keys. He also observed the symptoms of Beethoven’s increasing deafness years before the public knew. Czerny performed the premiere of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in 1805, and years later, gave the Vienna premiere of his Piano Concerto No. 5, “Emperor”. After becoming a piano teacher at age 15, he taught the young Franz Liszt.

Czerny’s influence as a technician is felt for generations of pianists. Pianists today can trace their teaching lineage back to Czerny, such as pianist and conductor Daniel Barenboim, who studied with Edwin Fischer, who studied with Martin Krause, who studied with Franz Liszt, who studied with Czerny.

“The Tremolo” is insanely difficult and impossible (for me) to play. This pianist does a bang-up job and while it’s not perfect, it’s miraculous he gets through the whole thing without collapsing at the end. It’s WAY harder than it looks or sounds. I tried to get through this tortuous study, gave up, ran upstairs, and turned on the TV.

Carl Czerny was born February 21, 1791 Vienna, Austria, and died July 15, 1857, also in Vienna.

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