I have compiled a series of ‘bite-size’ études for pianists from early-advance to concert levels. These exercises are the foundational to the development of technique and musicality of a pianist, striking the balance between the technicality and musicality required of a well-rounded pianist.
In particular, Charles-Louis Hanon exercises, deemed to be extremely tedious by many young pianists and some adults, but it can become quite meaningful with appropriate instruction.
Some of these études can be seen performed on Youtube; each composer is given a brief synopsis of their background. I leave it to the reader’s discretion to access them.
Carl Czerny (1791 – 1857)
Czerny began his piano lessons at the age of three and began composing at the age of seven. His father was his first piano teacher and he was taught to play Bach, Haydn and Mozart. Later Beethoven accepted Czerny as his student, whom Czerny greatly admired for his improvisation, expertise at fingering, rapidity of his scales and trills. Czerny began his teaching career at the age of fifteen. He also taught Carl, Beethoven’s nephew. Franz Liszt also became another of Czerny’s famous pupils with training in the compositions of Beethoven, Clementi, Ignaz Mocheles and Johann Sebastian Bach.
- 73 Studies Op. 823 (The Little Pianist) Czerny used years of teaching experience to create exercises that increase the technical ability of the pianist. The second half of this exercise book deals with ornaments; e. g., trills, turns and phrasings.
- 100 Studi Op. 599
- 30 Studi Op. 849
- The Art of Finger Dexterity 50 Studies for Piano Op.740
Henri Jérôme Bertini (1798 – 1876)
Bertini was born in London and moved to Paris as an infant where he later received his musical training from his father and brother, a pupil of Muzio Clementi. His playing has Clementi’s influence, with evenness and rapid, brilliant passages and cantabile quality, a characteristic of Hummel and Mocheles. He also wrote approximately 500 Études for the young pianist who may not able to span the octave of concert Études.
Charles-Louis Hanon (1819 – 1900)
Hanon was a French pianist and composer best known for his work, The Virtuoso Pianist in 60 Exercises. While there is value in Hanon’s exercises to gain independent finger technique, pedagogues and pianists need to use discretion when practicing Hanon so it does not become repetitive or played as a ‘marathon.’
- The Virtuoso Pianist in 60 Exercises for the Piano (progressive increasing difficulties)
Johann Baptist Cramer (1771 – 1858)
Cramer was a leading composer from the Classicism to Romanticism periods and founded the music publishing company Cramer & Company. He received piano lesson from Muzio Clementi.
Carl Czerny – see above
- 24 Studies Op. 636 Preliminary School of Finger Dexterity
- 299 School of Velocity Op.299
- 160 Eight Bars Petite Exercise Op.821
Friedrich Burgmüller (1806 – 1874)
Burgmüller was born in Regensburg, Germany to a musical family. His father was a musical theatre director in Weimar. He moved to Paris at the age of 26 in 1832 and made a career as a concert pianist. He was influenced by Parisian music and developed a French light-playing style. He also composed many salon musical scores for the piano including waltzes, nocturnes, polonaises and piano études, many intended for children.
Muzio Clementi (1752 – 1832)
Clementi was an Italian-born British composer, pianist, conductor, pedagogue, editor, and piano manufacturer. He was a very talented musician who had the opportunity to advance his studies in England under the sponsorship of Sir Peter Beckford. Ludwig van Beethoven held highest admiration for Clementi as he often played Clementi’s sonata and recommended his work to many students including his nephew Karl. It was Beethoven who claimed that those who studied Clementi are indirectly acquainted with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and other composers.
Carl Czerny also had the highest appreciation for Clementi’s piano sonatas and successfully used them to teach Lizst, his student. Clementi’s preludes and studies are often recommended and included in teaching Chopin’s students.
Johann Nepomuk Hummel (1778 – 1837)
Hummel was an Austrian composer whose father, Johannes Hummel, was a virtuoso pianist and conductor of an orchestra at the Wiednertheater. At the age of eight, Hummel was offered lesson by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart for two years free of charge. Later, his father brought him on a European tour where he met and received lessons from Clementi before returning to Vienna.
Young Ludwig van Beethoven arrived at Vienna about the same time as Hummel. The two musicians developed a rather rocky relationship.
Stephen Heller (1813 – 1888)
Heller was a Hungarian pianist, teacher and composer who was born in Budapest. Initially, he intended to study law as a career but decided to devote his life in music. He was a student of Carl Czerny in Vienna, Austria but was unable to afford Czerny’s tuition fee. He then became student of Anton Halm. Hector Belioz, Frédéric Chopin and Franz Liszt became close acquaintances of Heller.
Moritz Moszkowski (1854-1925)
Moritz Moszkowski was a German composer, pianist and teacher, born into a wealthy Polish-Jewish family. He was very well-respected and popular during the late nineteenth century. He also travelled extensively throughout Europe and gained a reputation as an exceptional concert pianist and brilliant composer and subsequently gained recognition as a conductor.
Ernö Dohnanyi (1877 – 1960)
Dohnanyi was an Austria- Hungarian composer, pianist and conductor. At the age of seventeen, the young Dohnanyi moved to Budapest and enrolled in the Royal National Hungarian Academy of Music. He studied with István Thomán and Hans von Koessler who became great influences on his life.
Theodor Kullak ( 1818 – 1882)
Kullak was a German pianist, composer and teacher. At the age of twenty-four, he opted for a Viennese education. He established a new music school in Florence with great success; ‘Kullak’s Academy’, specialized in training pianists. It had a hundred teachers and over one-thousand students by its 25th anniversary. He wrote piano instructional music of which the most renowned is Die Schule des Oktavenspiels (The School of Octave Playing), published in 1848.
Unfortunately, there are no current complete performances available; however one can access downloadable sheet music at:
Johann Nepomuk Hummel (1778 – 1837) – see above
Ignaz Moscheles (1794 – 1870)
Mocheles was a born in Prague, Czech Republic to a wealthy German-speaking Jewish merchant. He was a composer and piano virtuoso, who was established in London during his early career but later moved to Leipzig. He displayed early passion for the piano music of Beethoven. He settled in Vienna in 1808 after his father’s death and was able to meet Beethoven.
After his Viennese years, he set out on a series of concert tours of Europe. It was in London where he was warmly welcomed, where in 1822 he received an honorary membership at the Royal Academy of Music; he then settled in London. There, he secured his friendship with Clementi who accepted him as his student.
Later in 1843, when Felix Mendelssohn established a Conservatory at Leipzig, Mocheles accepted a position to teach there for several decades.
Joseph Christoph Kessler (1800 – 1872)
Joseph Christoph Kessler was a German pianist and composer whose work received accredition from Franz Liszt, Sigmond Thalberg and Ignaz Mocheles. Chopin was exposed to Kessler’s music during his teens in Warsaw.
Kessler studied philosophy in Vienna and gave piano lessons in Lemberg where he wrote his twenty-four Études Op.20, one in every key. Unlike Bach, he arranged his set of Études in the ‘circle of fifths.’
Felix Mendelssohn (1809 – 1847)
Mendelssohn began his music education at age six from his mother and was tutored by Marie Bigot at age seven in Paris where he began to study with Ludwig Berger, who himself was a student of Muzio Clementi. Mendelssohn and his sister later studied counterpoint and composition with Carl Friedrich Zelter in Berlin.
He was renowned as a keyboard performer for both organ and piano. He was also a notable conductor of his own compositions and of other composers’ works.
Federick Chopin (1810 – 1849)
Chopin was trained in the tradition of the high classicism composers like Beethoven, Haydn, Mozart and Clementi. He was quoted as naming Bach and Mozart as his two most influencial composers.
At age twenty-one, he settled in Paris and supported himself by composing and teaching for which he was in high demand. Franz Liszt and Robert Schuman, as well as many of other contemporaries, admired many of Chopin’s compositions.
Chopin suffered poor health and died in Paris at the age of thirty-nine.
Franz Liszt (1811 – 1886)
Franz Liszt was a Hungarian composer, virtuosic pianist, organist, teacher and conductor. His father played the piano, violin, cello and guitar. He received piano lessons from his father at the age of seven and by the age of eight was recognized as a child prodigy. By age nine, he was performing throughout Europe. He was also taught by Carl Czerny, who had been a student of Beethoven and Hummel.
Liszt performed before other musicians and kings at the age of twelve he was admitted to the Paris Conservatory but was denied entry on the grounds that he was a foreigner.
Liszt’s teaching approach focused on interpretation and preserving artistic individuality rather than technique. He founded the Royal National Hungarian Academy of Music in Budapest.
Sigmund Thalberg (1812 – 1871)
Sigmund Thalberg was a towering virtuoso pianist of the 19th century, born in Pâquis, near Geneva, Switzerland. His mother, Baroness von Wetzlar, gave him instruction the piano in his early years and brought him to Vienna at age ten.. Later, he studied under Ignaz Moscheles in London. He received piano lesson from Czerny.
Anton Rubinstein (1829 – 1894)
Anton Rubinstein was a Russian pianist, conductor and composer who founded the Russian Music Society (RMS) in 1859 under the patronage of Grand Duchess Elena Pavlovna. They had travelled together in Europe a decade earlier and decided to set up a society that cultivated the study of performance music for all Russians. Until then, music instruction had been only been available to aristocrats.
In 1862, he founded the St. Petersburg Conservatory of Music. The conservatory elevated musical culture and education in Russia. He was the leading and pivotal figure in St. Petersburg’s musical life. Josef Hofman was his most distinguished piano student, becoming one of the finest pianists of the 20th century.
Hans Seeling (1828 – 1862)
Hans Seeling was born in Prague, Czeck Republic. From a young age he suffered from ill health. He debuted in 1852 in Italy and ended his career in Paris in 1859 as his health worsened. In his heyday, his compositions were of given equal standing with those of Chopin.
Camille Saint Saëns (1835 – 1921)
Saint-Saëns was born in Paris and before the age of three demonstrated perfect pitch. After the death of his father, he lived with his mother and aunt. His aunt taught him basic pianism until the age of seven, after which he studied with Camille-Marie Stamaty.
The young boy gave occasional public performance at the Salle Pleyel, a concert hall in the 8th arrondissement of Paris. It premiered many of his important works including the second and fifth concertos.
He was admitted to the Paris Conservatoire in 1848 at the age of sixteen. He was considered as the ‘French Beethoven’. His two greatest students were Gabriel Fauré and Maurice Ravel.
Claude Debussy (1862 – 1890)
Claude Debussy was a French Impressionist composer and among the most influential composers of the 19th and 20th century; he was renowned for using non-traditional scales, chromaticism and tonalities. At the age of seven he received piano instruction from an Italian violinist. At the age of ten, he entered the Paris Conservatoire where he studied for the next 11 years.
In 1889, Debussy first heard of Javanese Gamelan Music at the Exposition Universelle where he prominently applied the gamelan scales, melodies and patterns in his compositions.
Alexander Scriabin (1871 – 1915)
Alexander Scriabin was born into an aristocratic family and his mother was a concert pianist and a former student of Theodor Leschetizky. Scriabin was heavily influenced by the music of Chopin in his early compositions and later by Arnold Schoenberg; both of their tonal and atonal elements were present in his music.
Karol Szymanowski (1882 – 1937)
Karol Szymanowski was the most prominent Polish composer of the early 20th century. His father gave him private lessons before he was enrolled at the Gustav Neuhaus Elisavetgrad School of Music in 1892. Later in 1901 he was admitted to the Warsaw Conservatory and later appointed as a director until he retired in 1930.
Among His influences were Richard Wagner, Richard Strauss, Alexander Scriabin and impressionistic composers – Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel. His fellow countryman, Frédéric Chopin was also a significant source of influence. He also received numerous awards and international recognitions.