Carl Czerny (1791-1857)

When your piano teacher first hauls out a pale yellow volume of music with the stark letters C Z E R N Y on the cover, you know you're in for it. You've successfully passed Schumann's "The Happy Farmer" and may have flirted a bit with J.S. Bach, but you are now ready for the master of exercise and boredom: Carl Czerny. He was born in Vienna in 1791 and died there in 1857. And that is more than most piano students know about him.

What else is there to know other than that most piano students will sooner or later grow to hate him. He came from quite a musical family: his grandfather was a violinist and his father an organist, oboist, singer and piano teacher. As a child of only 3, he was already playing the piano and by 7 he was writing down his musical ideas. He studied with Beethoven who taught him the fine art of legato, using C. P. E. Bach's Versuch, which was so different from the style required by Mozart's music. He later lost interest in performing and for the rest of his life he taught piano and along the way creating 15 noted composers of the time, including Franz Liszt.

His works included 6 symphonies, masses, requiems, sonatas, and sonatinas, totaling more than 1000 works written in a period of over 40 years -- many of them flashy and none of them memorable. As a boy I remember being back stage after a performance by the great pianist, Arthur Rubenstein (1887-1982), and overheard a student ask him about Czerny. He responded, "Better Bach, Bach and more Bach." That says it all!

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