Who is the notable student of Beethoven?

Carl Czerny (1791 – 1857), one of the greatest pianist, never played in the public, but did make occasional appearances as a young man. He was revolted by travel and the strain of performing in public. So he stayed at home in Vienna to teach and compose and do nothing else.

Carl Czerny

He was never married nor had any siblings, instead he had many cats, like seven to nine of them around the house and many were in the process of littering.  He spent a great deal of time relocating the kittens to a good homes. When he died, he left a considerable amount of money to the Vienna Conservatory and some charities. As a prolific composer, he had over a thousand compositions published in his lifetime.

He often worked on four to five compositions simultaneously, running from one manuscript to another as the ink dried enough for his turn of the pages. Meanwhile, he engaged in an animated conversation with anybody who happened to be in his music room.

Czerny was born in Vienna in 1791. His father had come to Vienna from the Bohemia to set up as a music teacher. He, himself, first taught Carl at three, who started composing at seven and at ten years of age could play almost any standard repertoire. Wenzel Krumpholz, a friend and an admirer of Beethoven, introduced the young Carl to Beethoven in the winter of 1799 – 1800. Carl played the Pathétique Sonata for Beethoven. Beethoven made a remark that he was very impressed with the boy’s talent and accepted him as his pupil and asked to send the boy to him once a week. Carl worked with Beethoven between 1800 and 1803. Beethoven made the boy a testimony:

“I, the undersigned, am glad to bear testimony to young Carl Czerny having made the most extraordinary progress on the pianoforte, far beyond what might be expected at the age of fourteen. I consider him deserving of all possible assistance, not only because of what I have already referred to, but because of his astonishing memory.

Carl eventually left Beethoven in 1803 but remained in close contact, playing much of Beethoven’s music. Czerny became a paramount figure as a teacher. Franz Liszt was one of his famous pupil apart from Döhler, Kullak, Leschetizky, Jaëll and Beleville. Liszt was never a systematic teacher while Leschestizky’s method was not too dissimilar than that of Czerny.  

Czerny decided that in actual practice there could be no such thing as ‘a method applicable’ to all, which was opposite from Hummel who had pre-conceived notions about piano technique. This also extended to fingerings as Czerny advocated that all hands differ from shape, size and formation where every piece of music, had to be applied specifically to the case at hand.

‘The thumb must never be placed on a black key, never strike two or more keys one after the other with the same finger. In runs, the little finger must never be placed on black keys.’

Nonetheless, in practical operation he seemed to be entirely flexible. He wrote an impressive collection of piano exercises for young pianists to pianists at an intermediate level. The notable ones are 100 Progressive Studies, Op. 139, 40 Daily Studies, Op. 337, and 110 Progressive Exercises, Op. 453. Pianists who undertake Czerny’s piano exercises will develop legato, velocity, octaves, dexterity and build foundation to play more advanced concert etudes.

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